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APR I 4 





Original unpopularity of Spinoza s writings, their gradually 
increasing influence in Germany, France, Holland, and 

England ....... v 

Authorities for the life of Spinoza : Colerus, &c. . . . ix 

Birth, 1634, and education of Spinoza x 

His breach with the synagogue, 1656 . . . . , xii 

Life near Amsterdam and at llhijnsburg . xiii 

Friendship with Simon de Vries xiv 

Removal to Voorburg and the Hague xv 

Correspondence with Oldenburg, Leibnitz, Tschirnhausen, and 

others. Publication of Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, 1670. xvi 
Massacre of the De Witts, 1672. Indignation and danger of 

Spinoza xvii 

Completion of the Ethics, 1674 xviii 

Later life of Spinoza xviii 

Death and burial, February, 1677 xx 

Opera Posthuma published 1677 xxi 

Sketch of Spinoza s philosophy xxi 

Scope of the present work xxxii 


Preface 3 

Origin and consequences of superstition 3 

Causes that have led the author to write G 

Course of his investigation 8 

For what readers the treatise is designed. Submission of 

author to the rulers of his country 11 

Chap. I. Of Prophecy 13 

Definition of prophecy 13 

Distinction between revelation to Moses and to the other 

prophets 15 

Between Christ and all other recipients of revelation . . 1 U 

Ambiguity of the word " Spirit " 19 

The different senses in which things may be referred to God. 20 

Different senses of "Spirit of God" 22 

Prophets perceived revelation by imagination . ... 24 



Chap. II. Of Prophets "27 

A mistake to suppose that prophecy can give knowledge of 
phenomena 27 

Certainty of prophecy based on (1) Vividness of Imagination, 
(2) A Sign, (3) Goodness of the Prophet .... 29 

Variation ot prophecy with the temperament and opinions of 
the individual 30 

Chap. III. Of the Vocation of the Hebrews, and whether the 

Gift of Prophecy was peculiar to them 43 

Happiness of Hebrews did not consist in the inferiority of the 
Gentiles 43 

Nor in philosophic knowledge or virtue . . . . -J."> 

But in their conduct of affairs of state and escape from poli 
tical dangers . . . . . . . . 4fi 

Even this distinction did not exist in the time of Abraham . 48 

Testimony from the Old Testament itself to the share of the 
Gentiles in the law and favour of God .... 49 

Explanation of apparent discrepancy of the Epistle to the 
Romans .......... 53 

Answer to the arguments for the eternal election of the Jews. C4 

Chap. IV. Of the Divine Law 57 

Laws either depend on natural necessity or on human decree. 

The existence of the latter not inconsistent with the former 

class ot laws ......... 57 

Divine law a kind of law founded on human dec-roe : called 

Divine from its object 0-J 

Divine law (1) universal ; (2) independent of the truth of any 

historical narrative 5 (3) independent of rites and ceremonies; 

(4) its own reward (51 

Reason does not present God as a law-giver for men . . (]-j 
Such a conception a proof of ignorance in Adam in the 

Israelites in Christians ....... 63 

Testimony of the Scriptures in favour of reason and the 

rational view of the Divine law ...*.. G5 

Cliap. V. Of the Cfrrnionial Law ...... 09 

Ceremonial law of the Old Testament no part of the Divine 

universal law, but partial and temporary. Testimony of 

the prophets themselves to this 69 

Testimony of the New Testament 7i> 

How the ceremonial law tended to preserve the Hebrew kingdom 
Christian rites on a similar footing ..... 
What part of the Scripture narratives is one bound to believe? 

Chap. VI.- -Of Miracles 

Confused ideas of the vulgar on the subject ... 

A miracle in the sense of a contravention of natural laws an 


In the souse of an event, whose cause is unknown, less edify- 

ing than an event better understood ... 



/ God s providence identical with the course of nature 89 


/ How Scripture miracles may be interpreted . 

Chap. VII. Of the Interpretation of Scripture . 
Current systems of interpretation erroneous . 
Only true system to interpret it by itself 

Reasons why this system cannot now be carried out in its 

entirety 108 

Yet these difficulties do not interfere with our understanding 

the plainest and most important passages . . . .113 
Kival systems examined that of a supernatural faculty being 

necessary refuted 114 

That of Maimonides I 14 

Refuted . .116 

Traditions of the Pharisees and the Papists rejected . .118 

Chap. VIII. Of the authorship of the Pentateuch, and the other 

historical books of the Old Testament 120 

The Pentateuch not written by Moses 120 

His actual writings distinct 124 

Traces of late authorship in the other historical books . . 127 
All the historical books the work of one man . . .129 

Probably Ezra 130 

Who compiled first the book of Deuteronomy . 13i 
And then a history, distinguishing the books by the names of 

their subjects 132 

Chap. IX. Other questions about these books . . . .133 
That these books have not been thoroughly revised and made 

to agree 133 

That there are many doubtful readings 139 

That the existing marginal notes are often such . . .140 
The other explanations of these notes refuted . . .141 
The hiatus 145 

Chap. X. An Examination of the remaining books of the Old 

Testament according to the preceding method . . .146 

Chronicles, Psalms, Proverbs I 46 

Isaiah, Jeremiah 147 

Ezekiel, Hosea 148 

Other prophets, Jonah, Job 1^0 

Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther .150 

The author declines to undertake a similar detailed examina 
tion of the New Testament I 56 

Chap. XI An Inquiry whether the Apostles wrote their Epistles 
as Apostles and Prophets, or merely as Teachers, and an Ex 
planation of what is meant by an Apostle . . !>? 

The epistles not in the prophetic style 157 

The Apostles not commanded to write nor to preach in parti 
cular places 1 59 

Different methods of teaching adopted by the Apostles . . 1M 


Chap. XI [. Of the true Original of the Divine Law, and where 
fore Scripture is called Sacred, and the Word of God. How 
that, in so far as it contains the Word of God, it has come 
down to us uncorrupted 155 

Chap. XIII. It is shown, that Scripture teaches only very Simple 

Doctrines, such as suffice for right conduct . . . . 175 
Error in speculative doctrine not impious nor knowledge 

pious. Piety consists in obedience .... ISO 

Chap. XIV. Definitions of Faith, the True Faith, and the 
Foundations of Faith, which is once for all separated from 
Philosophy .... jo-; 

Danger resulting from the vulgar idea of faith . . * 182 
The only test of faith obedience and good works . . . Ib4 
As different men are disposed to obedience by different 
opinions, universal faith can contain only the simplest 
doctrines ..... icg 

Fundamental distinction between faith* and philosophy the 

key-stone of the present treatise jgg 

Chap. XV.Theolopi/ is shown- not to be subservient to Season, 
nor Reason to theology : a Definition of the reason which 
enables us to accept the Authority of the Bible . . .190 
Theory that Scripture must be accommodated to Reason- 
maintained by Maimonides already refuted in Chapter 

. 190 

Theory that Reason must le accommodated to* Scripture 
maintained by A Ipakhar examined 191 

And refuted jj* 

Scripture and Reason independent of one another 

Certainty of fundamental faith not mathematical but moral ." 196 

breat utility of Revelation jg 8 

Chap. \\l Of the Found,! thus of a State; of the, Sahtral 
and Civil lixjhts of Individuals; and of the Kinhts of the 

Sovereign Power .... . 2()0 

In Nature right co-extensive with power . >u () 

This principle applies to mankind in the state of Nature 20] 

low a transition from this state to a civil state is possible 20 J 

Subjects not slaves ... oOG 

Definition of private civil right and wrong . ,~ - 

Of alliance .... 

Uftrvuson 2 8 

In what sense sovereigns are bourn! hv Divine law 2 i 

^vu government not inconsistent with reliion . . ~> 

P A- / \~ I 8 " " <haf no one can or " ecd transfer all 
hu liyhtg to th> Sovereign Power. Of the Hc n-ew It, nuhlic 
a* it wo* during the l(f,tiine of Moses, and after his death 
Ml the foundation of the Monar.-hy ; and of its Kxc, Hence 

wku*\ OJ l A 2n U hj tJ r Ucocratic Snvblie fell, and 
why * could hardly have continued without Di*scn*ivn 

issension . 214 



The absolute theory of Sovereignty ideal No one can iu 
fact transfer all his rights to the Sovereign power. Evi 
dence of this ,214 

The greatest danger in all States from within, not without . 216 

Original independence of the Jews after the Exodus . . 218 

Changed first to a pure democratic Theocracy . . . 21 J 

Then to subjection to Moses. . . 220 
Then to a Theocracy with the power divided between the 
high priest and the captains . . . . . ,221 

The tribes confederate States .... 224 

Restraints on the civil power 2 %; >6 

Restraints on the people ..... . 228 

Causes of decay involved in the constitution of the Levitical* 

priesthood 232 

Chap. XVIir. From the Commonwealth of the Hebrews and their 

History certain Lessons are deduced . . . . .237 

The Hebrew constitution no longer possible or desirable, yet 
lessons may be derived from its history . . . . 237 

As the danger of entrusting any authority in polities to 
ecclesiastics the danger of identifying religion with 
dogma 241 

Ihe necessity of keeping all judicial power with the sovereign 
the danger of changes in the form of a State . . . 24? 

This last danger illustrated from the history of England of 

Rome 243 

And of Holland j 244 

Chap. XIX. It is shown that the Eicjht over Matters Spirit iial lies 
wholly with the Sovereign, and that the Outward Farms of 
Religion should be in accordance with Public Peace, if we 

would worship God aright 245 

Difference between external and inward religion . . . 245 
Positive law established only by agreement .... 246 
Piety furthered by peace and obedience .... 24!) 

Position of the Apostles exceptional 250 

Why Christian States, unlike the Hebrew, suffer from dis 
putes between the civil and ecclesiastical powers . . 254 
Absolute power in things spiritual of modern rulers . . 256 

Chap. XX. That in a Free State every man may Think what 

he Likes, and Say what he Thinks 257 

The mind not subject to State authority . . . ,257 
Therefore in general language should not be . . . . 258 
A man who disapproving of a law, submits his adverse opinion 
to the judgment of the authorities, while acting in accor 
dance with the law, deserves well of the State . . . 259 
That liberty of opinion is beneficial, shown from the history 

of Amsterdam 264 

Danger to the State of withholding it. Submission of the 
Author to the judgment of his country s rulers . . 265 





Extract from the Preface to Opera Posthunia . . .281 

Contents 283 

Chap. I. Introduction 287 

II. Of Natural Right 291 

III. Of the Kight of Supreme Authorities . . . .301 

IV. Of the Functions of Supreme Autlnrit s . , . 309 
V. Of the Best State of a Dominion , .... 313 

VI. Of Monarchy 316 

VII. Of Monarchy. Continuation 327 

VIl I. Of Aristocracy 345 

IX. Of Aristocracy. Continuation 370 

X. Of Aristocracy. Conclusion ..... 378 
XI. Of Democracy . 385 


" Konstatiert ist es, das der Lebenswandel des Spinoza frei von allem 
Tadel war,und rein und makellos wie das Leben seines gb ttlichen Vetters, 
Jesu Christi. Auch wie Dieser litt er fiir seine Lehre wie Dieser trug er 
die Dornenkrone. Ueberall, wo ein grosser Geist seine Gedenken aus- 
spricht, ist Golgotha." HEINE. 

A VERY few years ago the writings of Spinoza were 
almost unknown in this country. The only authorities 
to which the English reader could be referred were the 
brilliant essays of Mr. Froude 1 and Mr. Matthew Arnold, 2 
the graphic but somewhat misleading sketch in Lewes s 
" History of Philosophy," and the unsatisfactory volume of 
Dr. E. Willis. 3 But in 1880 Mr. Pollock brought out his 
most valuable " Spinoza, his Life and Philosophy," 4 likely 
long to remain the standard work on the subject; Dr. 
Martineau has followed with a sympathetic and gracefully 
written " Study of Spinoza ; " Professor Knight has edited 
a volume of Spinozistic Essays by Continental Philoso- 

1 " Short Studies in Great Subjects," first series, art. " Spinoza." 

2 " Essays in Criticism," art. " Spinoza and the Bible." 

8 "Benedict de Spinoza 5 his Life, Correspondence, and Ethics." 

* I take this early opportunity of recording my deep obligations to 
Mr. Pollock s book. I have made free use of it, together with Dr. 
Martineau s, in compiling this introduction. In the passages which 
Mr. Pollock has incidentally translated, I have been glad to be able to 
refer to the versions of so distinguished a scholar. 


pliers ; Auerbach s biographical novel 1 has been translated, 
and many writers have made contributions to the subject 
in magazines and reviews. 

At first sight this stir of tardy recognition may seem less 
surprising than the preceding apathy, for history can show 
few figures more remarkable than the solitary thinker of 
Amsterdam. But the causes wlu ch kept Spinoza in com 
parative obscurity are not very far to seek. Personally he 
shrank with almost womanly sensitiveness from anything 
like notoriety : his chief work was withheld till after his 
death, and then published anonymously ; his treatise on 
Keligion was also put forth in secret, and he disclaims 
with evident sincerity all desire to found a school, or give 
his name to a sect. 

Again, the form in which his principal work is cast is 
such us to repel those dilettante readers, whose suffrage 
is necessary for a widely-extended reputation ; none but 
genuine students would care to grapple with the serried 
array of definitions, axioms, and propositions, of which the 
Ethics is composed, while the display of geometric accuracy 
flatters the careless into supposing, that the whole struc 
ture is interdependent, and that, when a single breach has 
been effected, the entire fabric has been demolished. 

The matter, no less than the manner, of Spinoza s writ 
ings was such as to preclude popularity. He genuinely 
shocked his contemporaries. Advances in thought are 
tolerated in proportion as they respond to and, as it were, 
kindle into flame ideas which are already smouldering ob 
scurely in many minds. A teacher may deepen, modify, 
transfigure what he finds, but he must not attempt radical 
reconstruction. In the seventeenth century all men s 
deepest convictions were inseparably bound up with anthro 
pomorphic notions of the Deity ; Spinoza, in attacking 
these latter and endeavouring to substitute the conception 

: eiu lAuUcrlcbeu." Ibjj. 


of eternal and necessary law, seemed to be striking at the 
very roots of moral order : hence with curious irony his 
works, which few read and still fewer understood, became 
associated with notions of monstrous impiety, and their 
author, who loved virtue with single-hearted and saintly 
devotion, was branded as a railer against God and a sub- 
verter of morality, whom it was a shame even to speak of. 
Those from whom juster views might have been expected 
swelled the popular cry. The Cartesians sought to confirm 
their own precarious reputation for orthodoxy by emphatic 
disavowals of their more daring associate. Leibnitz, who 
had known Spinoza personally, speaks of him, whether 
from jealousy or some more avowable motive, in tones of 
consistent depreciation. 

The torrent of abuse, which poured forth from the 
theologians and their allies, served to overwhelm the 
ethical and metaphysical aspect of Spinoza s teaching. The 
philosopher was hidden behind the arch-heretic. Through- 
out almost the whole of the century following his death, 
he is spoken of in terms displaying complete misappre 
hension of his importance and scope. The grossly inaccu 
rate account given by Bayle in the " Dictionnaire Philoso- 
phique" was accepted as sufficient. The only symptom of a 
following is found in the religious sect of Hattemists, which 
based some of its doctrines on an imperfect understanding 
of the so-called mystic passages in the Ethics. The first 
real recognition came from Lessing, who found in Spinoza 
a strength and solace he sought in vain elsewhere, though 
he never accepted the system as a whole. His conversa 
tion with Jacobi (1780), a diligent though hostile student 
of the Ethics, may be said to mark the beginning of a new 
epoch in the history of Spinozism. Attention once at 
tracted was never again withdrawn, and received a powerful 
impulse from Goethe, who more than once confessed his 
indebtedness to the Ethics, which indeed is abundantly 


evident throughout his writings. Schleiermacher paid an 
eloquent tribute to "the holy, the rejected Spinoza." 
Novalis celebrated him as "the man intoxicated with 
Deity" (der Gottvertrunkcne Mann), and Heine for once 
forgot to sneer, as he recounted his life. The brilliant 
novelist, Auerbach, has not only translated his complete 
works, but has also made his history the subject of a 
biographical romance. Among German philosophers Kant 
is, perhaps, the last, who shows no traces of Spinozism. 
Hegel has declared, that " to be a philosopher one must first 
be a Spinozist." In recent years a new impulse has been 
given to the study of the Ethics by their curious harmony 
with the last results of physiological research. 

In France Spinoza has till lately been viewed as a dis 
ciple and perverter of Descartes. M. Emile Saisset pre 
fixed to his translation of the philosopher s chief works a 
critical introduction written from this standpoint. Since 
the scientific study of philosophic systems has begun 
among the French, M. Paul Janet has written on Spinoza 
as a link in the chain of the history of thought ; a new 
translation of his complete works has been started, and 
M. Kenan has delivered a discourse on him at the bicen 
tenary of his death celebrated at the Hague. 

In Holland there has also been a revival of interest in 
the illustrious Dutch thinker. Professors Van Vloten and 
Land were mainly instrumental in procuring the erection 
of a statue to his memory, and are now engaged in a fino 
edition of his works, of which the first volume has appeared. 1 
In England, as before said, the interest in Spinoza has till 
recently been slight. The controversialists of the eighteenth 
century, with the exception of Toland, passed him by as 
unworthy of serious study. The first recognition of his true 
character came probably from Germany through Coleridge, 
who in his desultory way expressed enthusiastic admiration, 
1 " B. de Spinoza, Opera. L M The Hague, 1882. 


and recorded his opinion (in a pencil note to a passage in 
Schelling), that the Ethics, the Novum Organum, and the 
Critique of Pure Reason were the three greatest works 
written since the introduction of Christianity. The in 
fluence of Spinoza has been traced by Mr. Pollock in 
Wordsworth, and it is on record that Shelley not only 
contemplated but began a translation of the Tractatus 
Theologico-Politicus, to be published with a preface by 
Lord Byron, but the project was cut short by his death. 
It is said that George Eliot left behind her at her decease 
a MS. translation of the Ethics. 

It may strike those who are strangers to Spinoza as 
curious, that, notwithstanding the severely abstract nature 
of his method, so many poets and imaginative writers 
should be found among his adherents. Lessing, G-oethe, 
Heine, Auerbach, Coleridge, Shelley, George Eliot ; most 
of these not only admired him, but studied him deeply. 
On closer approach the apparent anomaly vanishes. There 
is about Spinoza a power and a charm, which appeals 
strongly to the poetic sense. He seems to dwell among 
heights, which most men see only in far off, momentary 
glimpses. The world of men is spread out before him, 
the workings of the human heart lie bared to his gaze, but 
he does not fall to weeping, or to laughter, or to reviling : 
his thoughts are ever with the eternal, and something of 
the beauty and calm of eternal things has passed into his 
teaching. If we may, as he himself was wont to do, in 
terpret spiritually a Bible legend, we may say of him that, 
like Moses returning from Sinai, he bears in his presence 
the witness that he has held communion with the Most 

The main authority for the facts of Spinoza s life is a 

short biography by Johannes Colerus 1 (Kohler), Lutheran 

1 Originally written in Dutch (1706). Translated the same year into 


pastor at the Hague, who occupied the lodgings formerly 
tenanted by the philosopher. The orthodox Christian felt 
a genuine abhorrence for the doctrines, which he regarded as 
atheistic, but was honest enough to recognize the stainless 
purity of their author s character. He sets forth what he 
has to say with a quaint directness in admirable keeping 
with the outward simplicity of the life he depicts. 

Further authentic information is obtainable from passing 
notices in the works of Leibnitz, and from Spinoza s pub 
lished correspondence, though the editors of the latter have 
suppressed all that appeared to them of merely personal 
interest. There is also a biography attributed to Lucas, 
physician at the Hague (1712), but this is merely a -con 
fused panegyric, and is often at variance with more trust 
worthy records. Additional details may be gleaned from 
Bayle s hostile and inaccurate article in the " Dictionnaire 
Philosophique;" from S. Kortholt s preface to the second 
edition (1700) of his father s l*>ok " De tribus impostoribus 
magnis:" and, lastly, from the recollections of Colonel 
Stoupe (1673), an officer in the Swiss service, who had met 
the philosopher at Utrecht, but does not contribute much 
to our knowledge. 

Baruch de Spinoza was born in Amsterdam Nov. 24, 
1634. His parents were Portuguese, or possibly Spanish 
Jews, who had sought a refuge in the Netherlands from 
the rigours of the Inquisition in the Peninsula. Though 
nothing positive is known of them, they appear to have 
been in easy circumstances, and certainly bestowed on their 
only son their other two children being girls a thorough 
education according to the notions of their time and sect. 
At the Jewish High School, under the guidance of Mor- 
teira, a learned Talmudist, and possibly of the brilliant 

Krrnrh and Finish, nn-1 afr.-nvards (1723) into German. Tho English 
\eruion it* reprinted in Mr. Toll.)* k s book as an appendix. 


Manasseh Ben Israel, who afterwards (1655) was employed 
to petition from Cromwell the re-admission of the Jews to 
England, the young Spinoza was instructed in the learn 
ing of the Hebrews, the mysteries of the Talmud and the 
Cabbala, the text of the Old Testament, and the commen 
taries of Ibn Ezra and Maimonides. Eeaders of the 
Tractatus Theologico-Politicus will be able to appreciate the 
use made of this early training. Besides such severer 
studies, Spinoza was, in obedience to Rabbinical tradition, 
made acquainted with a manual trade, that of lens polish 
ing, and gained a knowledge of French, Italian, and Ger 
man ; Spanish, Portuguese, and Hebrew were almost his 
native tongues, but curiously enough, as we learn from 
one of his lately discovered letters, 1 he wrote Dutch with 
difficulty. Latin was not included in the Jewish curricu 
lum, being tainted with the suspicion of heterodoxy, but 
Spinoza, feeling probably that it was the key to much of 
the world s best knowledge, set himself to learn it ; 2 first, 
with the aid of a Q-erman master, afterwards at the house 
of Francis Van den Ende, a physician. It is probably 
from the latter that he gained the sound knowledge of 
physical science, which so largely leavened his philosophy ; 
and, no doubt, he at this time began the study of Descartes, 
whose reputation towered above the learned world of the 

Colerus relates that Van den Ende had a daughter, 
Clara Maria, who instructed her father s pupils in Latin 
and music during his absence. " She was none of the 

1 Letter XXXII. See vol. ii. 

* A translator has special opportunities for observing the extent of 
Spinoza s knowledge of Latin. His sentences are grammatical and his 
meaning almost always clear. But his vocabulary is restricted; his 
style is wanting in flexibility, and seldom idiomatic; in fact, the niceties 
of scholarship are wanting. He reminds one of a clever workman who 
accomplishes much with simple tools. 


most beautiful, but she had a great deal of wit," and as the 
story runs displayed her sagacity ly rejecting the proffered 
love of Spinoza for the sake of his fellow-pupil Kerkering, 
who was a"ble to enhance his attractions ly the gift of a 
costly pearl necklace. It is certain that Van den Ende s 
daughter and Kerkering were married in 1671, but the 
tradition of the previous love affair accords ill with ascer 
tained dates. Clara Maria was only seven years old when 
Spinoza left her father s house, and sixteen when he left 
the neighbourhood. 

Meanwhile the brilliant Jewish student was overtaken by 

that mental crisis, which has come over so many lesser men 

before and since. The creed of his fathers was found un 

equal to the strain of his own wider knowledge and changed 

spiritual needs. The Hebrew faith with its immemorial 

antiquity, its unbroken traditions, its myriads of martyrs, 

could appeal to an authority which no other religion has 

equalled, and Spinoza, as we know from a passage in one 

of his letters,* felt the claim to the full. We may be sure 

that the gentle and reserved youth was in no haste to 

obtrude his altered views, but the time arrived when they 

could no longer be with honesty concealed. The Jewish 

doctors were exasperated at the defection of their most 

promising pupil, and endeavoured to retain him in their 

communion by the offer of a yearly pension of 1,000 

florins. Such overtures were of course rejected. Sterner 

measures were then resorted to. It is even related, on ex 

cellent authority, that Spinoza s life was attempted as he 

was coming out of the Portuguese synagogue. Be this as 

it may, he fled from Amsterdam, and was (1656) formally 

excommunicated and anathematized according to the rites 

of the Jewish church. 

Tims isolated from his kindred, he sought more con- 
niul society unions Ihe dissenting community of Colle- 

1 U-tlt-r LXX1V. 


giants, a body of men who without priests or set forms 
of worship carried out the precepts of simple piety. He 
passed some time in the house of one of that "body, not far 
from Amsterdam, on the Ouwerkerk road, and in 1660 or 
the following year removed with his friend to the head 
quarters of the sect at Ehijnsburg, near Ley den, where the 
memory of his sojourn is still preserved in the name 
"Spinoza Lane." His separation from Judaism was 
marked by his substituting for his name Baruch the Latin 
equivalent Benedict, but he never received baptism or for 
mally joined any Christian sect. Only once again does his 
family come into the record of his life. On the death of 
his father, his sisters endeavoured to deprive him of his 
share of the inheritance on the ground that he was an out 
cast and heretic. Spinoza resisted their claim by law, but 
on gaining his suit yielded up to them all they had de 
manded except one bed. 

Skill in polishing lenses gave him sufficient money for 
his scanty needs, and he acquired a reputation as an opti 
cian before he became known as a philosopher. It was in 
this capacity that he was consulted by Leibnitz. 1 His only 
contribution to the science was a short treatise on the 
rainbow, printed posthumously in 1687. This was long 
regarded as lost, but has, in our own time, been recovered 
and reprinted by Dr. Van Yloten. 

Spinoza also drew, for amusement, portraits of his friends 
with ink or charcoal. Colerus possessed " a whole book of 
such draughts, amongst which there were some heads of 
several considerable persons, who were known to him, or 
had occasion to visit him," and also a portrait of the phi 
losopher himself in the costume of Masaniello. 

So remarkable a man could hardly remain obscure, and 
we have no reason to suppose that Spinoza shrank from 
social intercourse. Though in the last years of his life his 
1 Letters LI., Lil. 


habits were somewhat solitary, this may be set down to 
failing health, poverty, and the pressure of uncompleted 
work. He was never a professed ascetic, and probably, in 
the earlier years of his separation from Judaism, was the 
centre of an admiring and affectionate circle of friends. In 
his letters he frequently states that visitors leave him no 
time for correspondence, and the tone, in which he was ad 
dressed by comparative strangers, shows that he enjoyed 
considerable reputation and respect. Before the appearance 
of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, he had published 
nothing which could shock the susceptibilities of Christians, 
and he was known to be a complete master of Cartesianism, 
then regarded as the consummation and crown of learning. 
It is recorded that a society of young men used to hold 
meetings in Amsterdam for the discussion of philosophical 
problems, and that Spinoza contributed papers as material 
for their debates. 1 Possibly the MS. treatise " On God, 
Man, and his Blessedness," which has been re-discovered fn 
two Dutch co j lies during our own time, may be referred 
to this period. It is of no philosophic value compared 
with the Ethics, but is interesting historically as throwing 
light on the growth of Spinoza s mind and his early rela 
tions to Cartesianism. 

Oblivion has long since settled down over this little band 
of questioners, but a touching record has been preserved 
of one of their number, Simon do Vries, who figures in 
Spinoza s correspondence. He had often, we are told, 
wished to bestow gifts of money on his friend and master, 
but those had always been declined. During the illness 
which preceded his early death, he expressed a desire tu 
make the philosopher his heir. This again was declined, 
and he was prevailed on by Spinoza to reduce the bequest 
to a small annuity, and to leave the bulk of his property 

1 Letters XXVI., XXVII., according to the corrected text >! Dr. 
Van Vloten, herein adopted. 


to his family. When he had passed away his brother 
fixed the pension at 500 florins, but Spinoza declared the 
sum excessive, and refused to accept more than 300 florins, 
which were punctually paid him till his death. 

Besides this instruction by correspondence, for which he 
seems to have demanded no payment (" mischief," as one 
of his biographers puts it, "could be had from him for 
nothing "), Spinoza at least in one instance received into 
his house a private pupil, 1 generally identified with one 
Albert Burgh, who became a convert to Eome in 1675, and 
took that occasion to admonish his ex-tutor in a strain of 
contemptuous pity. 2 Probably to this youth were dictated 
" The principles of Cartesianism geometrically demon 
strated," which Spinoza was induced by his friends to 
publish, with the addition of some metaphysical reflections 
in 1663. 3 Lewis Meyer, a physician of Amsterdam, and 
one of Spinoza s intimates, saw the book through the press, 
and supplied a preface. Its author does not appear to 
have attached any importance to the treatise, which he 
regarded merely as likely to pave the way for the reception 
of more original work. It is interesting as an example of 
the method afterwards employed in the Ethics, used to 
support propositions not accepted by their expounder. It 
also shows that Spinoza thoroughly understood the system 
he rejected. 

In the same year the philosopher removed from Ehijns- 
burg to Voorburg, a suburb of the Hague, and in 1670 to 
the Hague itself, where he lived till his death in 1677, 
lodging first in the house (afterwards tenanted by Colerus) 
of the widow Van Velden, and subsequently with Van der 

1 Letters XXVI., XXVII. * j^^. LXXIII. 

3 The full title is, " Kenati des Cartes Principiorum partes I. et II. 
more geometrico demonstrate per Benedictum de Spinoza Amsteloda- 
mensein. Accesserunt ejusdem cogitata metaphysica. Amsterdam, 


Spijk, a painter. He was very likely led to leave Rhijns- 
burg by his increasing reputation and a desire for educated 
society. By this time he was well known in Holland, and 
counted among his friends, John de Witt, who is said to 
have consulted him 011 affairs of state. Nor was his fame 
confined to his native country. Henry Oldenburg, the first 
secretary of the newly-established Eoyal Society of Eng 
land, had visited him at Ehijnsburg, introduced possibly 
by Huyghens, and had invited him to carry on a corre 
spondence, 1 in terms of affectionate intimacy. Oldenburg 
was rather active-minded than able, never really understood 
or sympathized with Spinoza s standpoint, and was 
thoroughly shocked 2 at the appearance of the Tractatus 
Theologico-Politicus, but he was the intimate friend of 
Robert Boyle, and kept his correspondent acquainted with 
the progress of science in England. Later on (1671), 
Leibnitz consulted Spinoza on a question of practical optics, 3 
and in 1676, Ludwig von Tschirnhausen, a Bohemian 
nobleman, known in the history of mathematical science, 
contributed some pertinent criticisms on the Ethics, then 
circulated in MS.* 

Amusing testimonies to Spinoza s reputation are afforded 
by the volunteered effusions of Blyenbergh, 6 and the artless 
questionings of the believer in ghosts. 8 

In 1670, the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus was pub 
lished anonymously, with the name of a fictitious printer at 
Hamburg. It naturally produced a storm of angry contro 
versy. It was, in 1674, formally prohibited by the States- 
General, and, as a matter of course, was placed on the Index 
by the Romish Church. Perhaps few books have been 

1 Letter I., sqq. 

3 But Tschirnhausen seems to have brought Oldenburg and Boyle to 
a better mind. Letter LXV. 

3 Letter LI. I.,. I in- L\\. ,, /(J . 

1 Le.ter XXXI. .-v/. Letter LV. >. 


more often "refuted," or less seriously damaged by the 
ordeal. Its author displayed his disinclination to disturb 
the faith of the unlearned by preventing during his lifetime 
the appearance of the book in the vernacular. 

In 1672, men s thoughts were for a time diverted from 
theological controversy by the French invasion of the 
Netherlands, and the consequent outbreak of domestic 
faction. The shameful massacre of the brothers De Witt 
by an infatuated mob brought Spinoza into close and pain 
ful contact with the passions seething round him. For 
once his philosophic calm was broken: he was only by 
force prevented from rushing forth into the streets at the 
peril of his life, and proclaiming his abhorrence of the 

Shortly afterwards, when the head-quarters of the French 
army were at Utrecht, Spinoza was sent for by the Prince 
de Coxide, who wished to make his acquaintance. On his 
arrival at the camp, however, he found that the Prince was 
absent; and, after waiting a few days, returned home 
without having seen him. The philosopher s French enter 
tainers held out hopes of a pension from Louis XTV., if a 
book were dedicated to that monarch ; but these overtures 
were declined. 

On his arrival at the Hague, Spinoza was exposed to 
considerable danger from the excited populace, who sus 
pected him of being a spy. The calm, which had failed him 
on the murder of his friend, remained unruffled by the 
peril threatening himself. He told his landlord, who was 
in dread of the house being sacked, that, if the mob showed 
any signs of violence, he would go out and speak to them 
in person, though they should serve him as they had served 
the unhappy De Witts. " I am a good republican," he 
added, " and have never had any aim but the welfare and 
good of the State." 

In 1673, Spinoza was offered by the Elector Palatine, 



Charles Lewis, 1 a professorship of philosophy at Heidelberg, 
but declined it, a on the plea that teaching would interfere 
with his original work, and that doctrinal restrictions, 
however slight, would prove irksome. 

In the following year, the Ethics were finished and cir 
culated in MS. among their author s friends. Spinoza 
made a journey to Amsterdam for the purpose of publish 
ing them, but changed his intention on learning that they 
would probably meet with a stormy reception. Perhaps 
failing health strengthened his natural desire for peace, 
and considerations of personal renown never had any weight 
with him. 

To this closing period belong the details as to Spinoza s 
manner of life collected by Colerus. They are best given 
in the biographer s simple words, as rendered in the con 
temporary English version: "It is scarce credible how 
sober and frugal he was. Not that he was reduced to so 
great a poverty, as not to be able to spend more, if he had 
been willing. He had friends enough, who offered him 
their purses, and all manner of assistance ; but he was 
naturally very sober, and would be satisfied with little." 
His food apparently cost him but a few pence a day, and 
he drank hardly any wine. " He was often invited to eat 
with his friends, but chose rather to live upon what he liiul 
at home, though it were never so little, than to sit down to 
a good table at the expense of another man. . . . He was 
very careful to cast up his accounts every quarter ; which 
he did, that he might spend neither more nor less than 
what he could spend every year. And he would say some 
times to the people of the house, that he was like the ser 
pent, who forms a circle with his tail in his mouth, to 
denote that he had nothing left at the year s end. He 
added, that he designed to lay up no more money than what 
would be necessary for him to have a decent burying. . . . 
1 Letter LIU. Letter LIV. 


He was of a middle size ; he had good features in his face, 
the skin somewhat black; black curled hair; long eye 
brows, and of the same colour, so that one might easily 
know by his looks that he was descended from Portuguese 
Jews. ... If he was very frugal in his way of living, his 
conversation was also very sweet and easy. He knew ad 
mirably well how to be master of his passions : he was 
never seen very melancholy, nor very merry. ... He was 
besides very courteous and obliging. He would very often 
discourse with his landlady, especially when she lay in, and 
with the people of the house, when they happened to be 
sick or afflicted: he never failed, then, to comfort them, 
and exhort them to bear with patience those evils which 
God assigned to them as a lot. He put the children in 
nihid of going often to church, and taught them to be 
obedient and dutiful to their parents. When the people of 
the house came from church, he would often ask them what 
they had learned, and what they remembered of the 
sermon. He had a great esteem for Dr. Cordes, my pre 
decessor, who was a learned and good-natured man, and of 
an exemplary life, which gave occasion to Spinoza to praise 
him very often : nay, he went sometimes to- hear him 
preach. ... It happened one day that his landlady asked 
him whether he believed she could be saved in the religion 
she professed. He answered : Your religion is a very good 
one ; you need not look for another, nor doubt that you may 
be saved in it, provided, whilst you apply yourself to piety, 
you live at the same time a peaceable and quiet life." 

His amusements were very simple : talking on ordinary 
matters with the people of the house ; smoking now and 
again a pipe of tobacco ; watching the habits and quarrels 
of insects ; making observations with a microscope such 
were his pastimes in the hours which he could spare from 
his philosophy. But the greater part of his day was taken 
up with severe mental work in his own room. Sometimes 


lie would become so absorbed, that lie would remain alone 
for two or three days together, his meals being carried up 
to him. 

Spinoza had never been robust, and had for more than 
twenty years been suffering from phthisis, a malady which, 
at any rate in those days, never allowed its victims to 
escape. The end came quite suddenly and quietly, in 
February, 1677. On Saturday, the 20th, after the landlord 
and his wife had returned from church, Spinoza spent 
some time with them in conversation, and smoked a pipe 
of tobacco, but wont to bed early. Apparently, he had 
previously sent for his friend and physician, Lewis Meyer, 
who arrived on Sunday morning. On the 21st, Spinoza 
came down as usual, and partook of some food at the mid 
day meal. In the afternoon, the physician stayed alone 
with his patient, the rest going to church. But when the 
landlord and his wife returned, they were startled with the 
news that the philosopher had expired about three o clock. 
Lewis Meyer returned to Amsterdam that same evening. 

Thus passed away all that was mortal of Spinoza. If we 
have read his character aright, his last hours were com 
forted with the thought, not so much that he had raised 
for himself an imperishable monument, as that he had 
pointed out to mankind a sure path to happiness and 
peace. Perhaps, with this glorious vision, there mingled 
the more tender feeling, that, among the simple folk with 
whom he lived, his memory would for a few brief years be 
cherished with reverence and love. 

The funeral took place on the 25th February, " being 
attended by many illustrious persons, and followed by six 
coaches." The estate left behind him by the philosopher 
was very scanty. Rebekah de Spinoza, sister of the 
deceased, put in a claim as his heir ; but abandoned it on 
finding that, after the payment of expenses, little or nothing 
would remain. 


The MSS., which were found in Spinoza s desk, were, in 
accordance with his wishes, forwarded to John Bieuwertz, 
a publisher of Amsterdam, and were that same year brought 
out by Lewis Meyer, and another of the philosopher s 
friends, under the title, " B. D. S. Opera Posthuma." They 
consisted of the Ethics, a selection of letters, a compendium 
of Hebrew grammar, and two uncompleted treatises, one 
on politics, the other (styled " An Essay on the Improve 
ment of the Understanding") on logical method. The 
last-named had been begun several years previously, but 
had apparently been added to from time to time. It 
develops some of the doctrines indicated in the Ethics, 
and serves in some sort as an introduction to the larger 

In considering Spinoza s system of philosophy, it must 
not be forgotten that the problem of the universe seemed 
much simpler in his day, than it does in our own. Men 
had not then recognized, that knowledge is " a world whose 
margin fades for ever and for ever as we move." They 
believed that truth was something definite, which might 
be grasped by the aid of a clear head, diligence, and a 
sound method. Hence a tone of confidence breathed 
through their inquiries, which has since died away, and a 
completeness was aimed at, which is now seen to be un 
attainable. But the products of human thought are often 
valuable in ways undreamt of by those who fashioned 
them, and long after their original use has become obso 
lete. A system, obviously inadequate and defective as a 
whole, may yet enshrine ideas which the world is the richer 
for possessing. 

This distinction between the framework and the central 
thoughts is especially necessary in the study of Spinoza ; 
for the form in which his work is cast would seem to lay 
stress on their interdependence. It has often been said, 
that the geometrical method was adopted, because it was 


believed to insure absolute freedom from error. But exami 
nation shows this to be a misconception. Spinoza, who 
had purged his mind of so many illusions, can hardly have 
succumbed to the notion, that his Ethics was a flawless 
mass of irrefragable truth. He adopted his method be 
cause he believed, that he thus reduced argument to its 
simplest terms, and laid himself least open to the seduc 
tions of rhetoric or passion. "It is the part of a wise 
man," he says, " not to bewail nor to deride, but to under 
stand." Human nature obeys fixed laws no less than do 
the figures of geometry. " I will, therefore, write about 
human beings, as though I were concerned with lines, and 
planes, and solids." 

As no system is entirely true, so also no system is en 
tirely original. Each must in great measure be the recom 
bination of elements supplied by its predecessors. Spinozism 
forms no exception to this rule ; many of its leading con 
ceptions may be traced in the writings of Jewish Eabbis 
and of Descartes. 

The biography of the philosopher supplies us in some 
sort with the genesis of his system. His youth had been 
passed in the study of Hebrew learning, of metaphysical 
speculations on the nature of the Deity. He was then 
confronted with the scientific aspect of the world as re 
vealed by Descartes. At first the two visions seemed 
antagonistic, but, as he gazed, their outlines blended and 
commingled, he found himself in the presence not of two, 
but of one; the universe unfolded itself to him as the 
necessary result of the Perfect and Eternal God. 

Other influences, no doubt, played a part in shaping his 
convictions ; we know, for instance, that he was a student 
of Bacon and of Hobbes, and almost certainly of Giordano 
Bruno, but these two elements, the Jewish and the Carte 
sian, aro the main sources of his system, though it cannot 
properly be called the mere development of either. From 


Descartes, as Mr. Pollock points out, he derived his notions 
of physical science and his doctrine of the conservation of 

In the fragment on the Improvement of the Under 
standing, Spinoza sets forth the causes which prompted 
him to turn to philosophy. 1 It is worthy of note that they 
are not speculative but practical. He did not seek, like 
Descartes, " to walk with certainty," but to find a happi 
ness beyond the reach of change for himself and his fellow- 
men. With a fervour that reminds one of Christian flee 
ing from the City of Destruction, he dilates on the vanity 
of men s ordinary ambitions, riches, fame, and the plea 
sures of sense, and on the necessity of looking for some 
more worthy object for their desires. Such an object he 
finds in the knowledge of truth, as obtainable through 
clear and distinct ideas, bearing in themselves the evidence 
of their own veracity. 

Spinoza conceived as a vast unity all existence actual 
and possible ; indeed, between actual and possible he re 
cognizes no distinction, for, if a thing does not exist, there 
must be some cause which prevents its existing, or in other 
words renders it impossible. This unity he terms indiffe 
rently Substance or God, and the first part of the Ethics 
is devoted to expounding its nature. 

Being the sum of existence, it is necessarily infinite (for 
there is nothing external to itself to make it finite), and it 
can be the cause of an infinite number of results. It must 
necessarily operate in absolute freedom, for there is nothing 
by which it can be controlled ; but none the less neces 
sarily it must operate in accordance with eternal and im 
mutable laws, fulfilling the perfection of its own nature. 

Substance consists in, or rather displays itself through 
an infinite number of Attributes, but of these only two, 

1 These observations are not offered as a complete exposition of 
Spinozism, but merely as an indication of its general drift. 


Extension and Thought, are knowable by us ; therefore, the 
rest may be left out of account in our inquiries. These 
Attributes are not different thing ;, but different aspects of 
the same thing (Spinoza does not make it clear, whether the 
difference is intrinsic or due to the percipient) ; thus Exten 
sion and Thought are not parallel and interacting, but 
identical, and both acting in one order and connection. 
Hence all questions of the dependence of mind on body, or 
body on mind, are done away with at a stroke. Every 
manifestation of either is but a manifestation of the other, 
seen under a different aspect. 

Attributes are again subdivided, or rather display them 
selves through an infinite number of Modes ; some eternal 
and universal in respect of each Attribute (such as motion 
and the sum of all psychical facts) ; others having no 
eternal and necessary existence, but acting and reacting on 
one another in ceaseless flux, according to fixed and defi 
nite laws. These latter have been compared in relation to 
their Attributes to waves in relation to the sea : or a^ain 


they may be likened to the myriad hues which play over 
the iridescent surface of a bubble ; each is the necessary 
result of that which went before, and is the necessary pre 
cursor of that which will come after ; all are modifications 
of the underlying film. The phenomenal world is made 
up of an infinite number of these Modes. It is manifest 
that the Modes of one Attribute cannot be acted upon by 
the Modes of another Attribute, for each may be expressed 
in terms of the other ; within the limits of each Attribute 
the variation in the Modes follows an absolutely necessary 
order. When the first is given, the rest follow as inevit 
ably, as from the nature of a triangle it follows, that its 
three angles are equal to two right angles. Nature is 
uniform, and no infringement of her laws is conceivable 
without a reduction to chaos. 

Hence it follows, that a thing can only be called cunt in- 


gent in relation to our knowledge. To an infinite intelli 
gence such a term would be unmeaning. 

Hence also it follows, that the world cannot have been 
created for any purpose other than that which it fulfils by 
being what it is. To say that it has been created for the 
good of man, or for any similar end, is to indulge in gro 
tesque anthropomorphism. 

Among the Modes of thought may be reckoned the 
human mind, among the Modes of extension may be 
reckoned the human body ; taken together they constitute 
the Mode man. 

The nature of mind forms the subject of the second part 
of the Ethics. Man s mind is the idea of man s body, 
the consciousness of bodily states. Now bodily states are 
the result, not only of the body itself, but also of all 
tilings affecting the body ; hence the human mind takes 
cognizance, not only of the human body, but also of the 
external world, in so far as it affects the human body. 
Its capacity for varied perceptions is in proportion to the 
body s capacity for receiving impressions. 

The succession of ideas of bodily states cannot be arbi 
trarily controlled by the mind taken as a power apart, 
though the mind, as the aggregate of past states, may be a 
more or less important factor in the direction of its course. 
We can, in popular phrase, direct our thoughts at will, but 
the will, which we speak of as spontaneous, is really deter 
mined by laws as fixed and necessary, as those which regu 
late the properties of a triangle or a circle. The illusion of 
freedom, in the sense of uncaused volition, results from 
the fact, that men are conscious of their actions, but un 
conscious of the causes whereby those actions have been 
determined. The chain of causes becomes, so to speak, in 
candescent at a particular point, and men assume that only 
at that point does it start into existence. They ignore the 
links which still remain in obscurity. 


If mind be simply the mirror of bodily states, how can 
we account for memory ? When the mind has been affected 
by two things in close conjunction, the recurrence of one 
re-awakens into life the idea of the other. To take an illus 
tration, mind is like a traveller revisiting his former home, 
for whom each feature of the landscape recalls associations 
of the past. From the interplay of associations are woven 
memory and imagination. 

Ideas may be either adequate or inadequate, in other 
words either distinct or confused ; both kinds are subject to 
the law of causation. Falsity is merely a negative concep 
tion. All adequate ideas are necessarily true, and bear in 
themselves the evidence of their own veracity. The mind 
accurately reflects existence, and if an idea be due to the 
mental association of two different factors, the joining, so to 
speak, may, with due care, be discerned. General notions 
and abstract terms arise from the incapacity of the mind 
to retain in completeness more than a certain number of 
mental images ; it therefore groups together points of re 
semblance, and considers the abstractions thus formed as 

There are three kinds of knowledge : opinion, rational 
knowledge, and intuitive knowledge. The first alone is the 
cause of error ; the second consists in adequate ideas of 
particular properties of things, and in general notions ; the 
third proceeds from an adequate idea of some attribute of 
God to the adequate knowledge of particular things. 

The reason does not regard things as contingent, but as 
necessary, considering them under the form of eternity, as 
part of the nature of God. The will has no existence apart 
from particular acts of volition, and since acts of volition 
are ideas, the will is identical with the understanding. 

The third part of the Ethics is devoted to the considera 
tion of the emotions. 

In so far as it has adequate ideas, i.e., is purely rational, 


the mind may be said to be active ; in so far as it lias inade 
quate ideas, it is passive, and therefore subject to emotions. 

Nothing can be destroyed from within, for all change 
must come from without. In other words, everything 
endeavours to persist in its own being. This endeavour must 
not be associated with the " struggle for existence " familiar 
to students of evolutionary theories, though the suggestion 
is tempting ; it is simply the result of a thing being what 
it is. When it is spoken of in reference to the human 
mind only, it is equivalent to the will; in reference to 
the whole man, it may be called appetite. Appetite is thus 
identified with life ; desire is defined as appetite, with con 
sciousness thereof. All objects of our desire owe their 
choiceworthiness simply to the fact that we desire them : 
we do not desire a thing, because it is intrinsically good, 
but we deem a thing good, because we desire it. Every 
thing which adds to the bodily or mental powers of activity 
is pleasure ; everything which detracts from them is pain. 

From these three fundamentals desire, pleasure, pain 
Spinoza deduces the entire list of human emotions. 
Love is pleasure, accompanied by the idea of an external 
cause ; hatred is pain, accompanied by the idea of an ex 
ternal cause. Pleasure or pain may be excited by anything, 
incidentally, if not directly. There is no need to proceed 
further with the working out of the theory, but we may 
remark, in passing, the extraordinary fineness of percep 
tion and sureness of touch, with which it is accomplished ; 
here, if nowhere else, Spinoza remains unsurpassed. 1 Almost 

1 It may be worth while to cite the often-quoted testimony of the 
distinguished physiologist, Johannes Muller: "With regard to the 
relations of the passions to one another apart from their physiological 
conditions, it is impossible to give any better account than that which 
Spino/a has laid down with unsurpassed mastery." Physiologic des 
Mmachen, ii. 543. He follows up this praise by quoting the propo- 
sitions in question in extenso. 


all the emotions arise from the passive condition of the 
mind, but there is also a pleasure arising from the mind s 
contemplation of its own power. This is the source of 
virtue, and is purely active. 

In the fourth part of the Ethics, Spinoza treats of man , 
in so far as he is subject to the emotions, prefixing a few 
remarks on the meaning of the terms perfect and imperfect, 
good and evil. A thing can only be called perfect in re 
ference to the known intention of its author. We style 
" good" that which we know with certainty to be useful to 
us : we style " evil " that which we know will hinder us in 
the attainment of good. By "useful," we mean that which 
will aid us to approach gradually the ideal we have set 
before ourselves. Man, being a part only of nature, must 
be subject to emotions, because he must encounter circum 
stances of which he is not the sole and sufficient cause. 
Emotion can only be conquered by another emotion stronger 
than itself, hence knowledge will only lift us above the 
sway of passions, in so far as it is itself " touched with 
emotion." Every man necessarily, and therefore rightly, 
seeks his own interest, which is thus identical with virtue ; 
but his own interest does not lie in selfishness, for man is 
always in need of external help, and nothing is more useful 
to him than his fellow-men ; hence individual well-being is 
best promoted by harmonious social effort. The reasonable 
man will desire nothing for himself, which he does not desire 
for other men; therefore he will be just, faithful, and 

The code of morals worked out on these lines bears 
many resemblances to Stoicism, though it is improbable 
that Spinoza was consciously imitating. The doctrine that 
rational emotion, rather than pure reason, is necessary for 
subduing the evil passions, is entirely his own. 

The means whereby man may gain mastery over his 
passions, are set forth in the first portion of the fifth part 


of the Ethics. They depend on the definition of passion 
as a confused idea. As soon as we form a clear and dis 
tinct idea of a passion, it changes its character, and ceases 
to be a passion. Now it is possible, with due care, to form 
a distinct idea of every bodily state ; hence a true know 
ledge of the passions is the best remedy against them. 
While we contemplate the world as a necessary result of 
the perfect nature of God, a feeling of joy will arise in our 
hearts, accompanied by the idea of God as its cause. This 
is the intellectual love of God, which is the highest happi 
ness man can know. It seeks for no special love from God 
in return, for such would imply a change in the nature of 
the Deity. It rises above all fear of change through envy 
or jealousy, and increases in proportion as it is seen to be 
participated in by our fellow-men. 

The concluding propositions of the Ethics have given 
rise to more controversy than any other part of the sys 
tem. Some critics have maintained that Spinoza is in 
dulging in vague generalities without -any definite mean 
ing, others have supposed that the language is inten 
tionally obscure. Others, again, see in them a doctrine of 
personal immortality, and, taking them in conjunction with 
the somewhat transcendental form of the expressions con 
cerning the love of God, have claimed the author of the 
Ethics as a Mystic. All these suggestions are reductions 
to the absurd, the last not least so. Spinoza may have 
been not unwilling to show that his creed could be expressed 
in exalted language as well as the current theology, but his 
"intellectual love " has no more in common with the ecstatic 
enthusiasm of cloistered saints, than his " God " has in 
common with the Divinity of Eomanist peasants, or his 
" eternity " with the paradise of Mahomet. But to return 
to the doctrine in dispute. 1 "The human mind," says 
Spinoza, " cannot be wholly destroyed with the body, but 
1 The explanation here indicated is based on that given by Mr. 


somewhat of it remains, which, is eternal." The eternity 
thus predicated cannot mean indefinite persistence in time, 
for eternity is not commensurable with time. It must 
mean some special kind of existence ; it is, in fact, denned 
as a mode of thinking. Now, the mind consists of ade 
quate and inadequate ideas ; in so far as it is composed of 
the former, it is part of the infinite mind of God, which 
broods, as it were, over the extended universe as its ex 
pression in terms of thought. As such, it is necessarily 
eternal, and, since knowledge implies self-consciousness, it 
knows that it is so. Inadequate ideas will pass away with 
the body, because they are the result of conditions, which 
are merely temporary, and inseparably connected with the 
body, but adequate ideas will not pass away, inasmuch as 
they are part of the mind of the Eternal. Knowledge of 
the third or intuitive kind is the source of our highest per 
fection and blessedness ; even as it forms part of the infi 
nite mind of God, so also does the joy with which it 
is accompanied the intellectual love of God form part 
of the infinite intellectual love, wherewith God regards 

Spinoza concludes with the admonition, that morality 
rests on a basis quite independent of the acceptance of 
the mind s Eternity. Virtue is its own reward, and needs 
no other. This doctrine, which appears, as it were, per 
functorily in so many systems of morals, is by Spinoxa 
insisted on with almost passionate earnestness ; few tilings 
seem to have moved him to more scornful denial than tin- 
popular creed, that supernatural rewards and punishments 
are necessary as incentives to virtue. " I see in what mud 
this man sticks," he exclaims in answer to some such state 
ment. " He is one of those who would follow after his own 
lusts, if he were not restrained by the fear of hell. He ab- 

Pollock, " Spinoza," &c., ch. ix., to which the reader is referred for a 
masterly exposition of the question. 


stains from evil actions and fulfils God s commands like a 
slave against his will, and for his bondage he expects to be 
rewarded by God with gifts far more to his taste than 
Divine love, and great in proportion to his original dislike 
of virtue." l Again, at the close of the Ethics, he draws an 
ironical picture of the pious coming before God at the 
Judgment, and looking to be endowed with incalculable 
blessings in recompense for the grievous burden of their 
piety. For him, who is truly wise, Blessedness is not the 
reward of virtue, but virtue itself. " And though the way 
thereto be steep, yet it may be found all things excellent 
are as difficult, as they are rare." 

Such, in rough outline, is the philosophy of Spinoza ; few 
systems have been more variously interpreted. Its author 
has been reviled or exalted as Atheist, Pantheist, Mono- 
theist, Materialist, Mystic, in fact, under almost every name 
in the philosophic vocabulary. But such off-hand classifi 
cation is based on hasty reading of isolated passages, 
rather than on sound knowledge of the whole. We shall 
act more wisely, and more in the spirit of the master, if, 
as Professor Land advises, " we call him simply Spinoza, 
and endeavour to learn from himself what he sought and 
what he found." 

The two remaining works, translated in these volumes, 
may be yet more briefly considered. They present no 
special difficulties, and are easily read in their entirety. 

The Tractatus Theologico-Politicus is an eloquent plea 
for religious liberty. True religion is shown to consist in 
the practice of simple piety, and to be quite independent of 
philosophical speculations. The elaborate systems of dog 
mas framed by theologians are based on superstition, result 
ing from fear. 

The Bible is examined by a method, which anticipates 
m great measure the procedure of modern rationalists, and 
1 Letter XLIX. 


the theory of its verbal inspiration is shown to be un 
tenable. The Hebrew prophets were distinguished not by 
superior wisdom, but by superior virtue, and they set forth 
their higher moral ideals in language, which they thought 
would best commend it to the multitude whom they ad 
dressed. For anthropomorphic notions of the Deity as a 
heavenly King and Judge, who displays His power by 
miraculous interventions, is substituted the conception set 
forth in the Ethics of an Infinite Being, fulfilling in the 
uniformity of natural law the perfection of His own 
Nature. Men s thoughts cannot really be constrained by 
commands ; therefore, it is wisest, so long as their actions 
conform to morality, to allow them absolute liberty to 
think what they like, and say what they think. 

The Political Treatise was the latest work of Spinoza s 
life, and remains unfinished. Though it bears abundant 
evidence of the influence of Hobbes, it differs from him in 
several important points. The theory of sovereignty is the 
same in both writers, but Spinoza introduces considerable 
qualifications. Supreme power is ideally absolute, but its 
rights must, in practice, be limited by the endurance of its 
subjects. Thus governments are founded on the common 
consent, and for the convenience of the governed, who 
are, in the last resort, the arbiters of their continuance. 

Spinoza, like Hobbes, peremptorily sets aside all claims 
of religious organizations to act independently of, or as 
superior to the civil power. Both reject as outside the 
sphere of practical politics the case of a special revelation 
to an individual. In all matters affecting conduct the State 
must be supreme. 

It remains to say a few words about the present version. 
I alone am responsible for the contents of these volumes, 
with the exception of the Political Treatise, which has 
been translated for me by my friend Mr. A. H. Gosset, 


Fellow of Now College, Oxford, who lias also, in my absence 
from England, kindly seen the work through the press. I 
have throughout followed Bruder s text, 1 correcting a few 
obvious misprints. The additional letters given in Pro 
fessor Van Yloten s Supplement, 2 have been inserted in 
their due order. 

This may claim to be the first version 3 of Spinoza s 
works offered to the English reader ; for, though Dr. K. 
Willis has gone over most of the ground before, he laboured 
under the disadvantages of a very imperfect acquaintance 
with Latin, and very loose notions of accuracy. The Trac- 
tatus Theologico-Politicus had been previously translated 
in 1689. Mr. Pollock describes this early version as 
" pretty accurate, but of no great literary merit." 

Whatever my own shortcomings, I have never con 
sciously eluded a difficulty by a paraphrase. Clearness has 
throughout been aimed at in preference to elegance. Though 
the precise meaning of some of the philosophical terms 
(e.g. idea) varies in different passages, I have, as far as 
possible, given a uniform rendering, not venturing to 
attempt greater subtlety than I found. I have abstained 
from notes ; for, if given on an adequate scale, they would 
have unduly swelled the bulk of the work. Moreover, 
excellent commentaries are readily accessible. 

R. H. M. ELWES. 

1 " B. de Spinosa Opera quse Supersunt Omnia," ed. C. H. Bruder. 
Leipzig (Tauclmitz\ 1843. 

2 "Ad B. D. S. Opera qiue Supersunt Omnia Supplementum." 
Amsterdam, 1862. 

3 While these volumes were passing through the press, a translation 
of the Ethics appeared by Mr. Hale White (Triibner and Co.). The 
Tractatus Politicus was translated in 1854 by W. Maccall, but the book 
lias become so rare as to be practically inaccessible. 




Hereby know we tbut we dwell in Him, and He in ns, because lie hath given it 
of His Spirit." 1 JOHN iv. 13. 


]\/T EN would never be superstitious, if they could govern 
L all their circumstances by set rules, or if they were 
always favoured by fortune : but being frequently driven 
into straits where rules are useless, and being often kept fluc- 
tuating^pitiably between hope and fear by the uncertainty of 
fortune s greedily coveted favours, they are consequently, 
for the most part, very prone to credulity. The human 
mind is readily swayed this way or that in times of 
doubt, especially when hope and fear are struggling for the 
mastery, though usually it is boastful, over- confident, and 

This as a general fact I suppose everyone knows, though 
few, I believe, know their own nature ; no one can have 
lived in the world without observing that most people, 
when in prosperity, are so over-brimming with wisdom 
(however inexperienced they may be), that they take every 
offer of advice as a personal insult, whereas in adversity 
they know not where to turn, but beg and pray for counsel 
from every passer-by. No plan is then too futile, too 
absurd, or too fatuous for their adoption ; the most frivo 
lous causes will raise them to hope, or plunge them into de 
spairif anything happens during their fright which 
reminds them of some past good or ill, they think it por 
tends a happy or unhappy issue, and therefore (though it 
may have proved abortive a hundred times before) style it 
a lucky or unlucky omen. Anything which excites their 
astonishment they believe to be a portent signifying the 
anger of the gods or of the Supreme Being, and, mis 
taking superstition for religion, account it impious not to 
avert the evil with prayer and sacrifice. Signs and wonders 


of this sort they conjure up perpetually, till one might 
think Nature as mad as themselves, they interpret her so 

Thus it is brought prominently before us, that super 
stition s chief victims are those persons who greedily covet 
temporal advantages ; they it is, who (especially when they 
are in danger, and cannot help themselves) are wont with 
prayers and womanish tears to implore help from God : 
upbraiding Reason as blind, because she cannot show a sure 
path to the shadows they pursue, and rejecting human 
wisdom as vain ; but believing the phantoms of imagination, 
dreams, and other childish absurdities, to be the very oracles 
of Heaven. As though God had turned away from the wise, 
and written His decrees, not in the mind of man but in 
the entrails of beasts, or left them to be proclaimed by the 
inspiration and instinct of fools, madmen, and birds. Such 
is the unreason to which terror can drive mankind ! 

Superstition, then, is engendered, preserved, and fostered 
by fear. If anyone desire an example, let him take Alex 
ander, who only began superstition sly to seek guidance 
from seers, when he first learnt to fear fortune in the passes 
of Sysis (Curtius, v. 4) ; whereas after he had conquered 
Darius he consulted prophets no more, till a second time 
frightened by reverses. When the Scythians were pro 
voking a battle, the Bactriaiis had deserted, and he him 
self was lying sick of his wounds, " he once more turned to 
superstition, the mockery of human wisdom, and bade 
Aristander, to whom he confided his credulity, inquire the 
issue of affairs with sacrificed victims." Very numerous 
examples of a like nature might be cited, clearly showing 
the fact, that only while under the dominion of fear do 
men fall a prey to superstition ; that all the portents ever 
invested with the reverence of misguided religion are mere 
phantoms of dejected and fearful minds ; and lastly, that 
prophets have most power among the people, and are most 
formidable to rulers, precisely at those times when the 
state is in most peril. I think this is sufficiently plain to 
all, and will therefore say no more on the subject. 

The origin of superstition above given affords us a cVir 
reason for the fact, that it comes to all men naturally, 
though some refer its rise to a dim notion of Oo^ uni 


versal to mankind, and also tends to show, that it is no less 
inconsistent and variable than other mental hallucinations 
and emotional impulses, and further that it can only be 
maintained by hope, hatred, anger, and deceit; since it 
springs, not from reason, but solely from the more powerful 
phases of emotion. Furthermore, we may readily under 
stand how difficult it is, to maintain in the same course men 
prone to every form of credulity. For, as the mass of 
mankind remains always at about the same pitch of misery, 
it never assents long to any one remedy, but is always best 
pleased by a novelty which has not yet proved illusive. 

This element of inconsistency has been the cause of 
many terrible wars and revolutions ; for, as Curtius well 
says (lib. iv. chap. 10) : " The mob has no ruler more i 
potent than superstition," and is easily led, on the plea of 
religion, at one moment to adore its kings as gods, and 
anon to execrate and abjure them as humanity s common 
bane. Immense pains have therefore been taken to counter 
act this evil by investing religion, whether true ov false, 
with such pomp and ceremony, that it may rise superior to 
every shock, and be always observed with studious reve 
rence by the whole people a system which has been 
brought to great perfection by the Turks, for they consider 
even controversy impious, and so clog men s minds with 
dogmatic formulas, that they leave no room for sound 
reason, not even enough to doubt with. 

But if, in despotic statecraft, the supreme and essential 
mystery be to hoodwink the subjects, and to mask the fear, 
which keeps them down, with the specious garb of religion, 
so that men may fight as bravely for slavery as for safety, 
auJ count it not shame but highest honour to risk their 
blood and their lives for the vainglory of a tyrant ; yet in 
a free state no more mischievous expedient could be planned 
or attempted. Wholly repugnant to the general freedom 
are such devices as enthralling men s minds with preju 
dices, forcing their judgment, or employing any of the 
weapons of quasi-religious sedition ; indeed, such seditions 
only spring up, when law enters the domain of speculative 
thought, and opinions are put on trial and condemned on 
the same footing as crimes, while those who defend and 
follow them are sacrificed, not to public safety, but to their 


opponents hatred and cruelty. If deeds only could be 
made the grounds of criminal charges, and words were 
always allowed to pass free, such seditions would be divested 
of every semblance of justification, and would be separated 
from mere controversies by a hard and fast line. 

Now, seeing that we have the rare happiness of living in a 
republic, where everyone s judgment is free and unshackled, 
where each may worship God as his conscience dictates, 
and where freedom is esteemed before all things dear and 
precious, I have believed that I should be undertaking no 
ungrateful or unprofitable task, in demonstrating that not 
only can such freedom be granted without prejudice to the 
public peace, but also, that without sue 1 ! freedom, piety 
cannot flourish nor the public peace be secure. 

Such is the chief conclusion I seek to establish in this 
treatise ; but, in order to reach it, I must first point out 
the misconceptions which, like scars of our former bondage, 
still disfigure our notion of religion, and must expose the 
false views about the civil authority which many have 
most impudently advocated, endeavouring to turn the mind 
of the people, still prone to heathen superstition, away from 
its legitimate rulers, and so bring us again into slavery. 
As to the order of my treatise I will speak presently, but 
first I will recount the causes which led me to write. 

I have often wondered, that persons who make a boast of 
professing the Christian religion, namely, love, joy, peace, 
temperance, and charity to all men, should quarrel with 
such rancorous animosity, and display daily towards one 
another such bitter hatred, that this, rather than the vir 
tues they claim, is the readiest criterion of their faith. 
Matters have long since come to such a pass, that one can 
only pronounce a man Christian, Turk, Jew, or Heathen, l>y 
his general appearance and attire, by his frequenting Ihfs 
or that place of worship, or employing the phraseology of 
a particular sect as for manner of life, it is in all eases 
the same. Inquiry into the cause of this anomaly leads 
me unhesitatingly to ascribe it to the fact, that the minis 
tries of the Church are regarded by the masses merely as dig 
nities, her offices as posts of emolument in short, popular 
religion may be summed up as respect for ecclesiastics. 
The spread of this misconception inflamed every worthless 


i ? ellow with an intense desire to enter holy orders, and thus 
the love of diffusing God s religion degenerated into sordid 
avarice and ambition. Every church became a theatre, 
where orators, instead of church teachers, harangued, 
caring not to instruct the people, but striving to attract 
admiration, to bring opponents to public scorn, and to 
preach only novelties and paradoxes, such as would tickle 
the ears of their congregation. This state of things neces 
sarily stirred up an amount of controversy, envy, and hatred, 
which no lapse of time could appease ; so that we can 
scarcely wonder that of the old religion nothing survives 
but its outward forms (even these, in the mouth of the 
multitude, seem rather adulation than adoration of the 
Deity), and that faith has become a mere compound of 
credulity and prejudices aye, prejudices too, which de 
grade man from rational being to beast, which completely 
stifle the power of judgment between true and false, which 
seem, in fact, carefully fostered for the purpose of extin 
guishing the last spark of reason ! Piety, great God ! and 
religion are become a tissue of ridiculous mysteries ; men, 
who flatly despise reason, who reject and turn away from 
understanding as naturally corrupt, these, I say, these 
of all men, are thought, lie most horrible ! to possess 
light from on High. Verily, if they had but one spark of 
light from on High, they would not insolently rave, but 
would learn to worship God more wisely, and would be 
as marked among their fellows for mercy as they now are 
for malice; if they were concerned for their opponents 
souls, instead of for their own reputations, they would no 
longer fiercely persecute, but rather be filled with pity and 

Furthermore, if any Divine light were in them, it would 
appear from their doctrine. I grant that they are never 
tired of professing their wonder at the profound mysteries 
of Holy Writ; still I cannot discover that they teach 
anything but speculations of Platonists and Aristotelians, 
to which (in order to save their credit for Christianity) 
they have made Holy Writ conform; not content to rave 
with the Greeks themselves, they want to make the pro 
phets rave also ; showing conclusively, that never even in 
sleep have they caught a glimpse of Scripture s Divine 


nature. The veiy vehemence of their admiration for the 
mysteries plainly attests, that their belief in the Bible is a 
formal assent rather than a living faith : and the fact is 
made still more apparent by their laying down beforehand, 
s a foundation for the study and true interpretation of 
bcnpture, the principle that it is in every passage true and 
divine. Such a doctrine should be reached only after strict 
scrutiny and thorough comprehension of the Sacred Books 
(which would teach it much better, for they stand in need 
of no human fictions), and not be set up on the threshold 
as it were, of inquiry. 

As I pondered over the facts that the light of reason is 
not only despised, but by many even execrated as a source of 
impiety, that human commentaries are accepted as divine 
records, and that credulity is extolled as faith ; as I marked 
the fierce controversies of philosophers raging in Chuivh 
and State, the source of bitter hatred and dissension the 
ready instruments of sedition and other ills innumerable, I 
determined to examine the Bible afresh in a careful, im 
partial, and unfettered spirit, making no assumptions con 
cerning it, and attributing to it no doctrines, which I do 
not find clearly therein set down. With these precautions 
I constructed a method of Scriptural interpretation, and 
thus equipped proceeded to inquire What is prophecy? 
in what sense did God reveal Himself to the prophets, and 
why were these particular men chosen by Him ? Was it 
on account of the sublimity of their thoughts about the 
Deity and nature, or was it solely on account of their piety ? 
These questions being answered, I was easily able to con 
clude, that the authority of the prophets has weight only in 
matters of morality, and that their speculative doctrines 
aft ect us little. 

Next I inquired, why the Hebrews were called God s 
chosen people, and discovering that it was only because 
G-od had chosen for them a certain strip of territory, where 
they might live peaceably and at ease, I learnt that the Law 
revealed by God to Moses was merely the law of the indi 
vidual Hebrew state, therefore that it was binding on none 
but Hebrews, and not even on Hebrews after the downfall 
of their nation. Further, in order to ascertain, whether it 
could be concluded from Scripture, that the human under- 


standing is naturally corrupt, I inquired whether the Uni 
versal Religion, the Divine Law revealed through the Pro 
phets and Apostles to the whole human race, differs from 
that which is taught by the light of natural reason, whethei 
miracles can take place in violation of the laws of nature, 
and if so, whether they imply the existence of God more 
surely and clearly than events, which we understand plainly 
and distinctly through their immediate natural causes. 

Now, as in the whole course of my investigation I found 
nothing taught expressly by Scripture, which does not 
agree with our understanding, or which is repugnant 
thereto, and as I saw that the prophets taught nothing, 
which is not very simple and easily to be grasped by all, and 
further, that they clothed their teaching in the style, and 
confirmed it with the reasons, which would most deeply 
move the mind of the masses to devotion towards God, I 
became thoroughly convinced, that the Bible leaves reason 
absolutely free, that it has nothing in common with philo 
sophy, in fact, that Revelation and Philosophy stand or 
totally different footings. In order to set this forth categori 
cally and exhaust the whole question, I point out the way in 
which the Bible should be interpreted, and show that all 
knowledge of spiritual questions should be sought from it 
alone, and not from the objects of ordinary knowledge. 
Thence I pass on to indicate the false notions, which have 
arisen from the fact that the multitude ever prone to 
superstition, and caring more for the shreds of antiquity 
than for eternal truths pays homage to the Books of the 
Bible, rather than to the Word of God. I show that the Word 
of God has not been revealed as a certain number of books, 
but was displayed to the prophets as a simple idea of the 
Divine mind, namely, obedience to God in singleness of 
heart, and in the practice of justice and charity; and I 
further point out, that this doctrine is set forth in Scrip 
ture in accordance with the opinions and understandings of 
those, among whom the Apostles and Prophets preached, 
to the end that men might receive it willingly, and with 
their whole heart. 

Having thus laid bare the bases of belief, I draw the 
conclusion that Eevelation has obedience for its sole object, 
and therefore, in purpose no less than in foundation and 


method, stands entirely aloof from ordinary knowledge 
each has its separate province, neither can be called the 
3 handmaid of the other. 

Furthermore, as men s habits of mind differ so that 
some more readily embrace one form of faith, some another 
r what moves one to pray may move another only to scoff 
i conclude m accordance with what has gone before, that 
everyone should be free to choose for himself the founda 
tions of his creed, and that faith should be judged only by 
its fruits ; each would then obey God freely with his whole 
heart, while nothing would be publicly honoured save 
justice and charity. 

Having thus drawn attention to the liberty conceded to 
everyone by the revealed law of God, I pass on to another 
part of my subject, and prove that this same liberty can and 
should be accorded with safety to the state and the magis 
terial authority in fact, that it cannot be withheld without 
great danger to peace and detriment to the community 

in order to establish my point, I start from the natural 
rights of the individual, which are co-extensive with his 
desires and power, and from the fact that no one is bound 
to live as another pleases, but is the guardian of his own 
liberty. I show that these rights can only be transferred 
to those whom we depute to defend us, who acquire with 
the duties of defence the power of ordering our lives, and 
thence infer that rulers possess rights only limited by 
fheir power, that they are the sole guardians of justice and 
liberty and that their subjects should act in all thin-s as 
they dictate: nevertheless, since no one can so utterly 
abdicate his own power of self-defence as to cease to be a 
man I conclude that no one can be deprived of his natural 
rights absolutely, but that subjects, either by tacit a<-ree- 
ment, or by social contract, retain a certain number, which 
cannot be taken from them without great danger to the state 
J; rom these considerations I pass on to the Hebrew State 
which I describe at some length, in order to trace the 
manner in which Jteligion acquired the force of law and 
touch on other noteworthy points. I then prove, that 
the holders of sovereign power are the depositaries and 
interpreters of religious no less than of civil ordinances 
and that they alone have tlio right to decide what is just or 


unjust, pious or impious ; lastly, I conclude by showing, 
that they best retain this right and secure safety to their 
state by allowing every man to think what he likes, and 
say what he thinks. 

Such, Philosophical Eeader, are the questions I submit 
to your notice, counting on your approval, for the subject 
matter of the whole book and of the several chapters is im 
portant and profitable. I would say more, but I do not want 
my preface to extend to a volume, especially as I know that 
its leading propositions are to Philosophers but common 
places. To the rest of mankind I care not to commend my 
treatise, for I cannot expect that it contains anything to 
please them : I know how deeply rooted are the prejudices 
embraced under the name of religion ; I am aware that in 
the mind of the masses superstition is no less deeply rooted 
than fear ; I recognize that their constancy is mere obsti 
nacy, and that they are led to praise or blame by impulse 
rather than reason. Therefore the multitude, and those 
of like passions with the multitude, I ask not to read 
my book; nay, I would rather that they should utterly 
neglect it, than that they should misinterpret it after then- 
wont. They would gain no good themselves, and might 
prove a stumbling-block to others, whose philosophy is 
hampered by the belief that Eeason is a mere handmaid 
to Theology, and whom I seek in this work especially to 
benefit. But as there will be many who have neither the 
leisure, nor, perhaps, the inclination to read through all I 
have^ written, I feel bound here, as at the end of my 
treatise, to declare that I have written nothing, which I do 
not most willingly submit to the examination and judgment 
of ^my country s rulers, and that I am ready to retract any 
thing, which they shall decide to be repugnant to the laws 
or prejudicial to the public good. I know that I am a 
man and, as a man, liable to error, but against error T 
have taken scrupulous care, and striven to keep in entire 
accordance with the laws of my country, with loyalty, and 
with morality. 




TjBOPHECY, or revelation, is sure knowledge revealed 
A >y God to man. A prophet is one who interprets the 
revelations of God to those who are unable to attain to sure 
knowledge of the matters revealed, and therefore can only 
apprehend them by simple faith. 

The Hebrew word for prophet is " nabi," l i.e. speaker or 
interpreter, but in Scripture its meaning is restricted to in 
terpreter of God, as we may learn from Exodus vii. 1, where 
God says to Moses, " See, I have made thee a god to Pha 
raoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet ; " im 
plying that, since in interpreting Moses words to Pharaoh, 
Aaron acted the part of a prophet, Moses would be to 
Pharaoh as a god, or in the attitude of a god. 

Prophets I will treat of in the next chapter, and at pre 
sent consider prophecy. 

Now it is evident, from the definition above given, that 
prophecy really includes ordinary knowledge ; for the know 
ledge which we acquire by our natural faculties depends on 
our knowledge of God and His eternal laws ; but ordinary 
knowledge is common to all men as men, and rests on foun 
dations which all share, whereas the multitude always 
strains after rarities and exceptions, and thinks little of the 
gifts of nature ; so that, when prophecy is talked of, ordi 
nary knowledge is not supposed to be included. Neverthe- 
1 See Notes, p. 209, Note 1. 


less it has as much right as any other to be called Divine, 
for God s nature, in so far as we share therein, and God s 
laws, dictate it to us ; nor does it suffer from that to which 
we give the pre-eminence, except in so far as the latter trans 
cends its limits and cannot be accounted for by natural 
laws taken in themselves. In respect to the certainty it 
involves, and the source from which it is derived, i.e. God, 
ordinary knowledge is no whit inferior to prophetic, unless 
indeed we believe, or rather dream, that the prophets had 
human bodies but superhuman minds, and therefore that 
their sensations and consciousness were entirely different 
from our own. 

But, although ordinary knowledge is Divine, its professors 
cannot be called prophets, 1 for they teach what the rest of 
mankind could perceive and apprehend, not merely by 
simple faith, but as surely and honourably as themselves. 

Seeing then that our mind subjectively contains in itself 
and partakes of the nature of God, and solely from this 
cause is enabled to form notions explaining natural pheno 
mena and inculcating morality, it follows that we may 
rightly assert the nature of the human mind (in so far as 
it is thus conceived) to be a primary cause of Divine reve 
lation. All that we clearly and distinctly understand is 
dictated to us, as I have just pointed out, by the idea and 
nature of God ; not indeed through words, but in a way far 
more excellent and agreeing perfectly with the nature of the 
mind, as all who have enjoyed intellectual certainty will 
doubtless attest. Here, however, my chief purpose is to 
speak of matters having reference to Scripture, so these few 
words on the light of reason will suffice. 

I will now pass on to, and treat more fully, the other 
ways and means by which God makes revelations to man 
kind, both of that which transcends ordinary knowledge, 
and of that within its scope ; for there is no reason why 
God should not employ other means to communicate what 
we know already by the power of reason. 

Our conclusions on the subject must be drawn solely 
from Scripture ; for what can we affirm about matters 
transcending our knowledge except what is told us by the 
words or writings of prophets? And since there are, so far 
as I know, no prophets now alive, we have no alternative but 

1 Sec- Note 2. 


to read the books of prophets departed, taking care the 
while not to reason from metaphor or to ascribe anything 
to our authors which they do not themselves distinctly state. 
I must further premise that the Jews never make any men- 
tion^ or account of secondary, or particular causes, but in a 
spirit of religion^ piety, and what is commonly called godli 
ness, refer all things directly to the Deity. For instance, 
if they make money by a transaction, they say God gave it 
to them ; if they desire anything, they say God has disposed 
1 heir hearts towards it ; if they think anything, they say 
God told them. Hence we must not suppose that every 
thing is prophecy or revelation which is described in 
Scripture as told by God to anyone, but only such things 
as are expressly announced as prophecy or revelation, or are 
plainly pointed to as such by the context. 

A perusal of the sacred books will show us that all God s 
revelations to the prophets were made through words or 
appearances, or a combination of the two. These words 
and appearances were of two kinds ; (1) real when external^ 
to the mind of the prophet who heard or saw them, (2) 
imaginary when the imagination of the prophet was in a 
state which led him distinctly to suppose that he heard or 
saw them. 

With a real voice God revealed to Moses the laws which 
He wished to be transmitted to the Hebrews, as we may 
see from Exodus xxv. 22, where God says, " And there I 
will meet with thee and I will commune with thee from the 
mercy seat which is between the Cherubim." Some sort of 
real voice must necessarily have been employed, for Moses 
found God ready to commune with him at any time. This, 
as I shall shortly show, is the only instance of a real voice! 
We might, perhaps, suppose that the voice with which 
God called Samuel was real, for in 1 Sam. iii. 21, we read, 
"And the Lord appeared again in Shiloh, for the Lord re- 
vealed^ Himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the 
Lord ; " implying that the appearance of the Lord consisted in 
His making Himself known to Samuel through a voice ; in 
other words, that Samuel heard the Lord speaking. But 
we are compelled to distinguish between the prophecies of 
M"oses and those of other prophets, and therefore must de 
cide that this voice was imaginary, a conclusion further 


supported by the voice s resemblance to the voice of Eli, 
which Samuel was in the habit of hearing, and therefore 
might easily imagine ; when thrice called by the Lord, 
Samuel supposed it to have been Eli. 

The voice which Abimelech heard was imaginary, for it 
is written, Gen. xx. 6, " And God said unto him in a dream." 
So that the will of God was manifest to him, not in waking, 
but only in sleep, that is, when the imagination is most 
active and uncontrolled. Some of the Jews believe that the 
actual words of the Decalogue were not spoken by God, but 
that the Israelites heard a noise only, without any distinct 
words, and during its continuance apprehended the Ten 
Commandments by pure intuition ; to this opinion I myself 
once inclined, seeing that the words of the Decalogue in 
Exodus are different from the words of the Decalogue in 
Deuteronomy, for the discrepancy seemed to imply (since 
God only spoke once) that the Ten Commandments were 
not intended to convey the actual words of the Lord, but 
only His meaning. However, unless we would do violence 
to Scripture, we must certainly admit that the Israelites 
heard a real voice, for Scripture expressly says, Deut. v. 4, 
" God spake with you face to face," i.e. as two men ordinarily 
interchange ideas through the instrumentality of their two 
bodies ; and therefore it seems more consonant with Holy 
Writ to suppose that God really did create a voice of some 
kind with which the Decalogue was revealed. The discre 
pancy of the two versions is treated of in Chap. V1JJ. 

Yet not even thus is all difficulty removed, for it seems 
scarcely reasonable to affirm that a created thing, depend 
ing on God in the same manner as other created things, 
would be al >le to express or explain the nature of God either 
verbally or really by means of its individual organism : for 
instance, by declaring in the first person, "I am the Lord 
your God." 

Certainly when anyone says with his mouth, " I under- 
st and," we do not attribute the understanding to the mouth, 
hut to the mind of the speaker; yet this is because the 
mouth is the natural organ of a man speaking, and the 
hearer, knowing what understanding is, easily comprehends, 
by a comparison with himself, that the speaker s mind is 
meant ; but if we knew nothing of God l>eyond the mere 


name and wished to commune with Him, and be assured of 
His existence, I fail to see how our wish would be satisfied 
by the declaration of a created thing (depending on God 
neither more nor less than ourselves), " I am the Lord." 
If God contorted the lips of Moses, or, I will not say Moses, 
but some beast, till they pronounced the words, " I am the 
Lord," should we apprehend the Lord s existence therefrom? 

Scripture seems clearly to point to the belief that God 
spoke Himself, having descended from heaven to Mount 
Sinai for the purpose and not only that the Israelites 
heard Him speaking, but that their chief men beheld Him 
(Ex. xxiv.) Further the law of Moses, which might neither 
be added to nor curtailed, and which was set up as a national 
standard of right, nowhere prescribed the belief that God 
is without body, or even without form or figure, but only 
ordained that the Jews should believe in His existence and 
worship Him alone : it forbade them to invent or fashion 
any likeness of the Deity, but this was to insure purity of 
service ; because, never having seen God, they could not by 
means of images recall the likeness of God, but only the 
likeness of some created thing which might thus gradually 
take the place of God as the object of their adoration. 
Nevertheless, the Bible clearly implies that God has a form, 
and that Moses when he heard God speaking was permitted 
to behold it, or at least its hinder parts. 

Doubtless some mystery lurks in this question which we 
will discuss more fully below. For the present I will call 
attention to the passages in Scripture indicating the means 
by which God has revealed His laws to man. 

Revelation may be through figures only, as in 1 Chron. 
xxii., where God displays his anger to David by means of 
an angel bearing a sword, and also in the story of Balaam. 

Maimonides and others do indeed maintain that these and 
every other instance of angelic apparitions (e.g. to Manoah 
and to Abraham offering up Isaac) occurred during sleep, 
for that no one with his eyes open ever could see an angel, 
but this is mere nonsense. The sole object of such com 
mentators seems to be to extort from Scripture confirmations 
of Aristotelian quibbles and their own inventions, a pro 
ceeding which I regard as the acme of absurdity. 

In figures, not real but existing only in the prophet s 


imagination, God revealed to Joseph his future lordship, 
and in words and figures He revealed to Joshua that He 
would fight for the Hebrews, causing to appear an angel, as 
it were the Captain of the Lord s host, bearing a sword, 
and by this means communicating verbally. The forsaking 
of Israel by Providence was portrayed to Isaiah by a vision 
of the Lord, the thrice Holy, sitting on a very lofty throne, 
and the Hebrews, stained with the mire of their sins, sunk 
as it were in vmcleanness, and thus as far as possible dis 
tant from God. The wretchedness of the people at the time 
was thus revealed, while future calamities were foretold in 
words. I could cite from Holy AVrit many similar examples, 
but I think they are sufficiently well known already. 

However, we get a still more clear confirmation of our 
position in Num. xii. 6, 7, as follows : " If there be any 
prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known 
unto him in a vision" (i.e. by appearances and signs, for God 
says of the prophecy of Moses that it was a vision without 
signs), " and will speak unto him in a dream " (i.e. not with 
actual words and an actual voice). " My servant Moses is 
not so; with him will I speak mouth to mouth, even 
apparently, and not in dark speeches, and the similitude oi 
the Lord he shall behold," i.f. looking on me as a friend 
and not afraid, he speaks with me (cf. Ex. xxxiii. 17) 

This makes it indisputable that the other prophets did 
not hear a real voice, and we gather as much from Dent, 
xxiv. 10 r "And there arose not a prophet since in Israel 
like unto Moses whom the Lord knew face to face," which 
must mean that the Lord spoke with none other ; for not 
even Moses saw the Lord s face. These are the only media 
of communication between God and man which I find 
mentioned in Scripture, and therefore the only ones which 
may be supposed or invented. We may be able quite to 
comprehend that God can communicate immediately with 
man, for without the intervention of bodily means He_ com 
municates to our minds His essence; still, a man who can by 
pure intuition comprehend ideas which are neither contained 
in nor deducible from the foundations of our natural know- 
ledge, must necessarily possess a niind far superior to those 
of his fellow men, nor do I believe that any have been so 
i ii lowed save Christ. To Him the ordinances of God lead- 

f HAf. OF r-ftOMlECY. 19 

ing men to salvation were revealed directly without words 
or visions, so that God manifested Himself to the Apostles 
through the mind of Christ as He formerly did to Moses 
through the supernatural voice. In this sense the voice of 
Christ, like the voice which Moses heard, may be called the 
voice of God, and it may be said that the wisdom of God 
(i.e. wisdom more than human) took upon itself in Christ 
human nature, and that Christ was the way of salvation. 
I must at this juncture declare that those doctrines which 
certain churches put forward concerning Christ, I neither 
affirm nor deny, for I freely confess that I do not under 
stand them. What I have just stated I gather from Scrip 
ture, where I never read that God appeared to Christ, or 
spoke to Christ, but that God was revealed to the Apostles 
through Christ ; that Christ was the Way of Life, and that 
the old law was given through an angel, and not imme 
diately by God ; whence it follows that if Moses spoke with 
God face to face as a man speaks with his friend (i.e. by 
means of their two bodies) Christ communed with God 
mind to mind.. 

Thus we may conclude that no one except Christ re 
ceived the revelations of God without the aid of imagina 
tion, whether in words or vision. Therefore the power of 
prophecy implies not a peculiarly perfect mind, but a 
peculiarly vivid imagination, as I will show more clearly 
in the next chapter. We will now inquire what is meant 
in the Bible by the Spirit of God breathed into the pro 
phets, or by the prophets speaking with the Spirit of God ; 
to that end we must determine the exact signification of 
the Hebrew word ruagh, commonly translated spirit. 

The word ruagh literally means a wind, e.g. the south 
wind, but it is frequently employed in other derivative 
significations. It is used as equivalent to, 

(1.) Breath: "Neither is there any spirit in his mouth," 
Ps. cxxxv. 17. 

(2.) Life, or breathing: " And his spirit returned to him," 
1 Sam. xxx. 12 ; i.e. he breathed again. 

(3.) Courage and strength: "Neither did there remain 
any more spirit in any man," Josh. ii. 11 ; "And the spirit 
entered into me, and made me stand on my feet," Ezek. ii. 2. 

(4.) Virtue and fitness : " Days should speak, and multi- 


s of years should teach wisdom ; but there is a spirit 
an," Job xxxii. 7 ; i.e. wisdom is not always found among 


in m 

old men, for I now discover that it depends on individual 

virtue and capacity. So, "A man in whom is the Spirit," 

Numbers xxvii. 18. 

(5.) Habit of mind : " Because he had another spirit with 
him," Numbers xiv. 24 ; i.e. another habit of mind. " Be 
hold I will pour out My Spirit unto you," Prov. i. 23. 

(6.) Will, purpose, desire, impulse : " Whither the spirit 
was to go, they went," Ezek. i. 12 ; " That cover with a 
covering, but not of My Spirit," Is. xxx. 1 ; " For^the Lord 
hath poured out on you the spirit of deep sleep," Is. xxix. 
10 ; "Then was their spirit softened," Judges viii. 3 ; " He 
that ruleth his spirit, is better than he that taketh a ^ity," 
Prov. xvi. 32 ; " He that hath no rule over his own spirit," 
Prov. xxv. 28 ; " Your spirit as fire shall devour you," 
Isaiah xxxiii. 1. 

From the meaning of disposition we get 

(7.) Passions and "faculties. A lofty spirit means pride, 
a lowly spirit humility, an evil spirit hatred and melan 
choly. So, too, the expressions spirits of jealousy, fornica- 
tion, wisdom, counsel, bravery, stand for a jealous, lasci 
vious, wise, prudent, or brave mind (for we Hebrews use 
substantives in preference to adjectives), or these various 

(8.) The mind itself, or the life : " Yea, they have all one 
spirit," Eccles. iii. 19 ; "The spirit shall return to God Who 
gave it." 

(9.) The quarters of the world (from the winds which 
blow thence), or even the side of anything turned towards 
a particular quarter- -Ezek. xxxvii. 9; xlii. 16, 17, IK, 

19, &c. 

I have already alluded to the way in which things are 
referred to God, and said to be of God. 

(1.) As belonging to His nature, and being, as it were, 
part of Him ; e.y. the power of God, the eyes of God. 

(2.) As under His dominion, and depending on His 
pleasure; thus the heavens are called the heavens of tin- 
Lord, as being His chariot and habitation. So Nebuchad 
nezzar is called the servant of God, Assyria the scourge of 
God, &c. 


(3.) As dedicated to Him, e.g. the Temple of God, a 
Nazarene of God, the Bread of God. 

(4.) As revealed through the prophets and not through 
our natural faculties. In this sense the Mosaic law is called 
the law of God. 

(5.) As being in the superlative degree. Very high moun 
tains are styled the mountains of God, a very deep sleep, 
the sleep of God, &c. In this sense we must explain 
Amos iv. 11 : "I have overthrown you as the overthrow of 
the Lord came upon Sodom and Gomorrah," i.e. that me 
morable overthrow, for since God Himself is the Speaker, 
the passage cannot well be taken otherwise. The wisdom 
of Solomon is called the wisdom of God, or extraordinary. 
The size of the cedars of Lebanon is alluded to in the 
Psalmist s expression, " the cedars of the Lord." 

Similarly, if the Jews were at a loss to understand any 
phenomenon, or were ignorant of its cause, they referred it 
to God. Thus a storm was termed the chiding of God, 
thunder and lightning the arrows of God, for it was thought 
that God kept the winds confined in caves, His treasuries; 
thus differing merely in name from the Greek wind-god 
Eolus. In like manner miracles were called works of God, 
as being especially marvellous ; though in reality, of course, 
all natural events are the works of God, and take place 
solely by His power. The Psalmist calls the miracles in 
Egypt the works of God, because the Hebrews found in 
them a way of safety which they had not looked for, and 
therefore especially marvelled at. 

As, then, unusual natural phenomena are called works 
of God, and trees of unusual size are called trees of God, 
we cannot wonder that very strong and tall men, though 
impious robbers and whoremongers, are in Genesis called 
sons of God. 

This reference of things wonderful to God was not 
peculiar to the Jews. Pharaoh, on hearing the interpreta 
tion of his dream, exclaimed that the mind of the gods was 
in Joseph. Nebuchadnezzar told Daniel that he possessed 
the mind of the holy gods ; so also in Latin anything well 
\madc is often said to be wrought with Divine hands, which 
is equivalent to the Hebrew phrase, wrought with the hand 
bf God. 


We can now very easily understand and explain those 
passages of Scripture which speak of the Spirit of God. In 
some places the expression merely moans a very strong, dry, 
and deadly wind, as in Isaiah xl. 7, "The grass withereth, 
the flower fad eth, because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth 
upon it." Similarly in Gen. i. 2 : " The Spirit of the Lord 
moved over the face of the waters." At other times it is 
used as equivalent to a high courage, thus the spirit of 
Gideon and of Samson is called the Spirit of the Lord, as 
being i ery bold, and prepared for any emergency. Any 
unusual virtue or power is called the Spirit or Virtue of 
the Lord, Ex. xxxi. 3: "I will fill him (Bezaleel) with the 
Spirit of the Lord," i.e., as the Bible itself explains, with 
talent above man s usual endowment. So Isa. xi. 2 : " And 
the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him," is explained 
afterwards in the text to mean the spirit of wisdom and 
understanding, of counsel and might. 

The melancholy of Saul is called the melancholy of the 
Lord, or a very deep melancholy, the persons who applied 
the term showing that they understood by it nothing super 
natural, in that they sent for a musician to assuage it by 
jharp-playing. Again, the " Spirit of the Lord "is used a s 
[equivalent to the mind of man, for instance, Job xxvii. 3 : 
"And the Spirit of the Lord in my nostrils," the allusion 
being to Gen. ii. 7 : " And God breathed into man s nostrils 
the breath of life." Ezekiel also, prophesying to the dead, 
says (xxvii. 14), " And I will give to you My Spirit, and ye 
shall live ;" i.e. I will restore you to life. In Job xxxiv. 14, 
we read : " If He gather unto Himself His Spirit and breath ;" 
in Gen. vi. 3 : " My Spirit shall not always strive with man, 
for that he also is flesh," i.e. since man acts on the dictates 
of his body, and not the spirit which I gave him to discern 
the good, I will let hi.Ti alone. So, too, Ps. li. 12 : "Create 
in me a clean heart, God, and renew a right spirit within 
me ; cast me not awaj from Thy presence, and take not 
I Thy Holy Spirit from me." It was supposed that sin origi- 
/ iiitteil only from the body, and that good impulses come 
from the mind ; therefore the Psalmist invokes the aid of 
God against the bodily appetites, but prays that the spirit 
which the Lord, the Holy One, had given him might be re 
newed. Again, inasmuch as the Bible, in concession i.o 


popular ignorance, describes God as having a mind, a heart, 
emotions nay, even a body and breath the expression 
Spirit of the Lord is used for God s mind, disposition, 
emotion, strength, or breath. Thus, Isa. xl. 13: "Who 
hath disposed the Spirit of the Lord? " i.e. who, save Him 
self, hath caused the mind of the Lord to will anything ? 
and Isa. Ixiii. 10 : " But they rebelled, and vexed the Holy 

The phrase comes to be used of the law of Moses, which 
in a sense expounds God s will, Is. Ixiii. 11, " Where is He 
that put His Holy Spirit within him?" meaning, as we 
clearly gather from the context, the law of Moses. Nehe- 
miah, speaking of the giving of the law, says, i. 20, " Thou 
gavest also thy good Spirit to instruct them." This is 
referred to in Deut. iv. 6, "This is your wisdom and 
understanding," and in Ps. cxliii. 10, "Thy good Spirit 
will lead me into the land of uprightness." The Spirit of 
the Lord may mean the breath of the Lord, for breath, no 
less than a mind, a heart, and a body are attributed to 
God in Scripture, as in Ps. xxxiii. 6. Hence it gets to 
mean the power, strength, or faculty of God, as in Job 
xxxiii. 4, " The Spirit of the Lord made me," i.e. the power, 
or, if you prefer, the decree of the Lord. So the Psalmist 
in poetic language declares, xxxiii. 6, " By the word of the 
Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by 
the breath of His mouth," i.e. by a mandate issued, as it 
were, in one breath. Also Ps. cxxxix. 7, " Whither shall I 
go from Thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from Thy pre 
sence?" i.e. whither shall I go so as to be beyond Thy 
power and Thy presence ? 

Lastly, the Spirit of the Lord is used in Scripture to 
express the emotions of God, e.g. His kindness and mercy, 
Micah ii. 7, " Is the Spirit [i.e. the mercy] of the Lord 
straitened ? Are these cruelties His doings ? " Zech. iv. 
6, "Not by might or by power, but My Spirit [i.e. mercy], 
saith the Lord of hosts." The twelfth verse of the 
seventh chapter of the same prophet must, I think, be 
interpreted in like manner : " Yea, they made their hearts 
as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and 
the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in His Spirit 
[i.e. in His mercy] by the former prophets." So also 



Haggai ii. 5 : "So My Spirit remaineth amoug you : fear 
ye not." 

The passage in Isaiah xlviii. 16, "And now the Lord 
God and His Spirit hath sent me," may be taken to refer 
either to God s mercy or His revealed law ; for the prophet 
says, " From the beginning " (i.e. from the time when I 
first came to you, to preach God s anger and His sentence 
gone forth against you) " I spoke not in secret ; from the 
time that it was, there am I," and now I am sent by the 
mercy of God as a joyful messenger to preach your resto 
ration. Or we may understand him to mean by the re 
vealed law that he had before come to warn them by the 
command of the law (Levit. xix. 17) in the same manner 
and under the same conditions as Moses had warned them, 
and that now, like Moses, he ends by preaching their resto 
ration. But the first explanation seems to me the best. 

Returning, then, to the main object of our discussion, 
we find that the Scriptural phrases, " The Spirit of the 
Lord was upon a prophet," " The Lord breathed His Spirit 
into men," "Men were filled with the Spirit of God, with 
the Holy Spirit," &c., are quite clear to us, and mean that 
the prophets were endowed with a peculiar and extraordi 
nary power, and devoted themselves to piety with especial 
constancy; 1 that thus they perceived the mind or the 
thought of God, for we have shown that God s Spirit, 
signifies in Hebrew God s mind or thought, and that the 
law which shows His mind and thought is called His 
Spirit ; hence that the imagination of the prophets, inas 
much as through it were revealed the decrees of God, may 
equally be called the mind of God, and the prophets be 
said to have possessed the mind of God. On our minds 
also the mind of God and His eternal thoughts are im 
pressed ; but this being the same for all men is less taken 
into account, especially by the Hebrews, who claimed a 
pre-eminence, and despised other men and other men s 

Lastly, the prophets were said to possess the Spirit ol 
God because men knew not the cause of prophetic know 
ledge, and in their wonder referred it with other marvels 
directly to the Deity, styling it Divine knowledge. 

We need no longer scruple to affirm that the prophets 
1 See Note 3. 


?only perceived God s revelation by the aid of imagination, 
. that is, by words and figures either real or imaginary. We 
find no other means mentioned in Scripture, and therefore 
must not invent any. As to the particular law of Nature 
by which the communications took place, I confess my 
ignorance. I might, indeed, say as others do, that they 
took place by the power of God ; but this would be mere 
1 trifling, and no better than explaining some unique speci- 
: men by a transcendental term. Everything takes place 
by the power of God. Nature herself is the power of God 
under another name, and our ignorance of the power of 
God is co-extensive with our ignorance of Nature. It is 
absolute folly, therefore, to ascribe an event to the power 
of God when we know not its natural cause, which is the 
power of God. 

However, we are not now inquiring into the causes of 
prophetic knowledge. We are only attempting, as I have 
said, to examine the Scriptural documents, and to draw 
our conclusions from them as from ultimate natural facts ; 
the causes of the documents do not concern us. 

As the prophets perceived the revelations of God by the 
aid of imagination, they could indisputably perceive much 
that is beyond the boundary of the intellect, for many 
more ideas can be constructed from words and figures than 
from the principles and notions on which the whole fabric 
of reasoned knowledge is reared. 

Thus we have a clue to the fact that the prophets per 
ceived nearly everything in parables and allegories, and 
clothed spiritual truths in bodily forms, for such is the 
usual method of imagination. We need no longer wonder 
that Scripture and the prophets speak so strangely and 
obscurely of God s Spirit or Mind (cf. Numbers xi. 17, 
1 Kings xxii. 21, &c.), that the Lord was seen by Micah as 
sitting, by Daniel as an old man clothed in white, by 
Ezekiel as a fire, that the Holy Spirit appeared to those 
with Christ as a descending dove, to the apostles as fierv 
tongues, to Paul on his conversion as a great light. All 
these expressions are plainly in harmony with the current 
ideas of God and spirits. 

Inasmuch as imagination is fleeting and inconstant, we 
find that the power of prophecy did not remain with a 


prophet for long, nor manifest itself frequently, but was 
very rare; manifesting itself only in a few men, and in 
them not often. 

We must necessarily inquire how the prophets became 
assured of the truth of what they perceived by imagina 
tion, and not by sure mental laws ; but our investigation 
must be confined to Scripture, for the subject is one on 
which we cannot acquire certain knowledge, and which we 
cannot explain by the immediate causes. Scripture teach 
ing about the assurance of prophets I will treat of in the 
next chapter. 





T follows from the last chapter that, as I have said, the 
prophets were endowed with unusually vivid imagina 
tions, and not with unusually perfect minds. This conclu 
sion is amply sustained by Scripture, for we are told that 
Solomon was the wisest of men, but had no special faculty 
of prophecy. Heman, Calcol, and Dara, though men of 
great talent, were not prophets, whereas uneducated 
countrymen, nay, even women, such as Hagar, Abraham s 
handmaid, were thus gifted. Nor is this contrary to ordi 
nary experience and reason. Men of great imaginative 
) power are less fitted for abstract reasoning, whereas those 
1 who excel in intellect and its use keep their imagination 
more restrained and controlled, holding it in subjection, so 
to speak, lest it should usurp the place of reason. 

Thus to suppose that knowledge of natural and spiritual 

phenomena can be gained from the prophetic books, is an 

utter mistake, which I shall endeavour to expose, as I think 

philosophy, the age, and the question itself demand. I 

care not for the girdings of superstition, for superstition is 

the bitter enemy of all true knowledge and true morality. 

Yes ; it has come to this ! Men who openly confess that 

they can form no idea of God, and only know Him through 

! created things, of which they know not the causes, can 

imblushingly accuse philosophers of Atheism. 

Treating the question methodically, I will show that pro 
phecies varied, not only according to the imagination and 
physical temperament of the prophet, but also according 
to his particular opinions ; and further that prophecy never 
rendered the prophet wiser than he was before. But I will 
first discuss the assurance of truth which the prophets re 
ceived, for this is akin to the subject-matter of the chapter, 
a.ud will serve to elucidate somewhat our present point. 


Imagination does not, in its own nature, involve any cer 
tainty of truth, such as is implied in every clear ami 
distinct idea, but requires some extrinsic reason to assure 
us of its objective reality : hence prophecy cannot afford 
certainty, and the prophets were assured of God s revela 
tion by some sign, and not by the fact of revelation, as we 
may see from Abraham, who, when he had heard the pro 
mise of God, demanded a sign, not because he did not 
believe in God, but because he wished to be sure that it was 
God Who made the promise. The fact is still more evident 
in the case of Gideon : " Show me," he says to God, " show 
me a sign, that I may know that it is Thou that talkest 
with me." God also says to Moses : " And let this be a 
sign that I have sent thee." Hezekiah, though he had long 
known Isaiah to be a prophet, none the less demanded a 
sign of the cure which he predicted. It is thus quite 
evident that the prophets always received some sign to 
certify ^hem of their prophetic imaginings; and for this 
reasor Moses bids the Jews (Dent, xviii.) ask of the pro 
phets a sign, namely, the prediction of some coming event. 
In this respect, prophetic knowledge is inferior to natural 
knowledge, which needs no sign, and in itself implies certi 
tude. Moreover, Scripture warrants the statement that 
the certitude of the prophets was not mathematical, but 
moral. Moses lays down the punishment of death for the 
prophet who preaches new gods, even though he confirm his 
doctrine by signs and wonders (Dent, xiii.); "For," he 
says, " the Lord also worketh signs and wonders to try His 
people." And Jesus Christ warns His disciples of the same 
thing (Matt. xxiv. 24). Furthermore, Ezekiel (xiv. 9) 
plainly states that God sometimes deceives men with false 
revelations; and Micaiah bears like witness in the case of 
the prophets of Ahab. 

Although these instances go to prove that revelation is 
open to doubt, it nevertheless contains, as we have said, a 
considerable element of certainty, for God never deceives 
the good, nor His chosen, but (according to the ancient 
proverb, and as appears in the history of Abigail and her 
speech), God uses the good as instruments of goodness, and 
the wicked as means to execute His wrath. This may be 
scon from the case of Micaiah above quoted ; for although 


rod had determined to deceive Aliab, through prophets, 
He made use of lying prophets ; to the good prophet He 
revealed the truth, and did not forbid his proclaiming it. 

Still the certitude of prophecy remains, as I have said, 
merely moral; for no one can justify himself before God, 
nor boast that he is an instrument for God s goodness. 
Scripture itself teaches and shows that God led away David 
to number the people, though it bears ample witness to 
David s piety. 

The whole question of the certitude of prophecy was based 
on these three considerations : 

1. That the things revealed were imagined very vividly, 
affecting the prophets in the same way as things seen when 
awake ; 

2. The presence of a sign ; 

3. Lastly and chiefly, that the mind of the prophet was 
given wholly to what was right and good. 

Although Scripture does not always make mention of a 
sign, we must nevertheless suppose that a sign was always 
vouchsafed; for Scripture does not always relate every 
condition and circumstance (as many have remarked), but 
rather takes them for granted. We in ly, however, admit 
that no sign was needed when the prophecy declared 
nothing that was not already contained in the law of 
Moses, because it was confirmed by that law. For instance, 
Jeremiah s prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem was 
confirmed by the prophecies of other y rophets, and by the 
threats in the law, and, therefore, )t needed no sign; 
whereas Hananiah, who, contrary to a 1 ! the prophets, fore 
told the speedy restoration of the stai e, stood in need of a 
sign, or he would have been in doubt as to the truth of his 
prophecy, until it was confirmed by 1 facts. "The prophet 
which prophesieth of peace, when th 3 word of the prophet 
shall come to pass, then shall the ) >rophet be known that 
the Lord hath truly sent him." 

As, then, the certitude afforded to 1 he prophet by signs was 
not mathematical (i.e. did not necess* rily follow from the per 
ception of the thing perceived or se^n), but only moral, and 
as the signs were only given to c mvince the prophet, it 
follows that such signs were given a> .cording to the opinions 
and capacity of each prophet, so that a sign which would 


Convince one prophet would fall far short of convincing 
another who was imbued with different opinions. There 
fore the signs varied according to the individual prophet. 

So also did the revelation vary, as we have stated, 
according to individual disposition and temperament, and 
according to the opinions previously held. 

It varied according to disposition, in this way : if a 
prophet was cheerful, victories, peace, and events which 
make men glad, were revealed to him; in that he was 
naturally more likely to imagine such things. If, on the 
contrary, he was melancholy, wars, massacres, and calami 
ties were revealed ; and so, according as a prophet was 
merciful, gentle, quick to anger, or severe, he was more 
fitted for one kind of revelation than another. It varied 
according to the temper of imagination in this way: if a 
prophet was cultivated he perceived the mind of God in a 
cultivated way, if he was confused he perceived it con 
fusedly. And so with revelations perceived through visions. 
If a prophet was a country man he saw visions of oxen, cows, 
and the like; if he was a soldier, he saw generals and 
armies ; if a courtier, a royal throne, and so on. 

Lastly, prophecy varied according to the opinions held 
1 >y the prophets ; for instance, to the Magi, who believed 
in the follies of astrology, the birth of Christ was revealed 
through the vision of a star in the East. To the augurs of 
Nebuchadnezzar the destruction of Jerusalem was revealed 
through entrails, whereas the king himself inferred it from 
oracles and the direction of arrows which he shot into the 
air. To prophets who believed that man acts from free 
choice and by his own power, God was revealed as standing 
apart from and ignorant of future human actions. All of 
which we will illustrate from Scripture. 

The first point is proved from the case of Elislia, who, in 
order to prophecy to Jehoram, asked for a harp, and was 
unable to perceive the Divine purpose till he had been re 
created by its music; then, indeed, he prophesied to Jeho 
ram and to his allies glad tidings, which previously he had 
been unable to attain to because he was angry with the 
king, and those who are angry with anyone can imagine 
evil of him, but not good. The theory that God does not 
reveal Himself to the angry or the sad, is a mere dream: 


for God revealed to Moses while angry, the tern bit 1 
slaughter of the firstborn, and did so without the interven 
tion of a harp. To Cain in his rage, God was revealed, and to 
Ezekiel, impatient with anger, was revealed the contumacy 
and wretchedness of the Jews. Jeremiah, miserable and 
weary of life, prophesied the disasters of the Hebrews, so 
that Josiah would not consult him, but inquired of a 
woman, inasmuch as it was more in accordance with 
womanly nature that God should reveal His mercy thereto. 
So, Micaiah never prophesied good to Ahab, though other 
true prophets had done so, but invariably evil. Thus we 
see that individual prophets were by temperament more 
fitted for one sort of revelation than another. 

The style of the prophecy also varied according to the 
eloquence of the individual prophet. The prophecies of 
Ezekiel and Amos are not written in a cultivated style like 
those of Isaiah and Nahum, but more rudely. Any Hebrew 
scholar who wishes to inquire into this point more closely, 
and compares chapters of the diiferent prophets treating of 
the same subject, will find great dissimilarity of style. 
Compare, for instance, chap. i. of the courtly Isaiah, verse 
11 to verse 20, with chap. v. of the countryman Amos, 
verses 21-24. Compare also the order and reasoning of 
the prophecies of Jeremiah, written in Idumsea (chap, xlix.) 
with the order and reasoning of Obadiah. Compare, lastly, 
Isa. xl. 19, 20, and xliv. 8, with Hosea viii. 6, and xiii. 2! 
And so on. 

A due consideration of these passage will clearly show riTi 
that God has no particular style in speaking, but, accord 
ing to the learning and capacity of the prophet, is cultivated, 
^compressed, severe, untutored, prolix, or obscure. 

There was, moreover, a certain variation in the visions 
vouchsafed to the prophets, and in the symbols by which 
they expressed them, for Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord 
departing from the Temple in a different form from that 
presented to Ezekiel. The Eabbis, indeed, maintain that 
both visions were really the same, but that Ezekiel, beim-- 
a countryman, was above measure impressed by it, anil 
therefore set it forth in full detail; but unless there is a 
trustworthy tradition on the subject, which I do not for a 
moment believe, this theory is plainly an invention. Isaiah 


saw seraphim with six wings, Ezekiel beasts with four 
wings ; Isaiah saw God clothed and sitting on a royal 
throne, Ezekiel saw Him in the likeness of a fire; each 
doubtless saw God under the form in which he usually 
imagined Him. 

Further, the visions varied in clearness as well as in de 
tails; for the revelations of Zechariah were too obscure to 
lie understood by the prophet without explanation, as ap 
pears from his narration of them ; the visions of Daniel 
could not be understood by him even after they had been 
explained, and this obscurity did not arise from the diffi 
culty of the matter revealed (for being merely human 
atYairs, these only transcended human capacity in being 
future), but solely in the fact that Daniel s imagination was 
not so capable for prophecy while he was awake as while 
he was asleep ; and this is further evident from the fact 
that at the very beginning of the vision he was so terrified 
that he almost despaired of his strength. Thus, on account 
of the inadequacy of his imagination and his strength, the 
things revealed were so obscure to him that he could not 
understand them even after they had been explained. 
Here we may note that the words heard by Daniel, were, 
as we have shown above, simply imaginary, so that it is 
hardly wonderful that in his frightened state he imagined 
them so confusedly and obscurely that afterwards he could 
make nothing of them. Those who say that God did not 
wish to make a clear revelation, do not seem to have read 
the words of the angel, who expreosly says that he came to 
make the prophet understand what should befall his people 
in the latter days (Dan. x. 14). 

The revelation remained obscure because no one was 
found, at Ihat time, with imagination sufficiently strong to 
conceive it more clearly. 

Lastly, the prophets, to whom it was revealed that God 
wrmld take away Elijah, wished to persuade Elisha that he 
had been taken somewhere where they would find him ; 
showing sufficiently clearly that they had not understood 
God s revelation aright. 

There is no need to set this out more amply, for nothing 
18 more plain in the ISiMe than that God endowed some 
prophets with far greater gifts of prophecy than others. 


But I will show in greater detail and length, for I consider 
the point more important, that the prophecies varied accord 
ing to the opinions previously embraced by the prophets, 
and that the prophets held diverse and even contrary opin 
ions and prejudices. (I speak, be it understood, solely of 
matters speculative, for in regard to uprightness and mora 
lity the case is widely different.) From thence I shall con 
clude that prophecy never rendered the prophets more 
learned, but left them with their former opinions, and that 
we ^ are, therefore, not at all bound to trust them in matters 
of intellect. 

Everyone has been strangely hasty in affirming that the 
prophets knew everything within the scope of human intel 
lect ; and, although certain passages of Scripture plainly 
affirm that the prophets were in certain respects ignorant, 
such persons would rather say that they do not understand 
the passages than admit that there was anything which the 
prophets did not know ; or .else they try to wrest the Scrip 
tural words away from their evident meaning. 

If either of these proceedings is allowable we may as well 
shut our Bibles, for vainly shall we attempt to prove any 
thing from them if their plainest passages may be classed 
among obscure and impenetrable mysteries, or if we may 
put any interpretation on them which we fancy. For 
instance, nothing is more clear in the Bible than that 
Joshua, and perhaps also the author who wrote his history, 
thought that the sun revolves round the earth, and that the 
earth is fixed, and further that the sun for a certain period 
remained still. Many, who will not admit any movement 
in the heavenly bodies, explain away the passage till it seems 
to mean something quite different ; others, who have learned 
to philosophize ^ more correctly, and understand that the 
earth moves while the sun is still, or at any rate does not 
revolve round the earth, try with all their might to wrest 
tliis meaning from Scripture, though plainly nothing of the 
sort is intended. Such quibblers excite my wonder ! Are 
we, forsooth, bound to believe that Joshua the soldier was 
a learned astronomer? or that a miracle could not be re 
vealed to him, or that the light of the sun could not remain 
longer than usual above the horizon, without his knowing 
the cause ? To me "both alternatives appear ridiculous, and 



therefore I would rather say that Joshua was ignorant of 
the true cause of the lengthened day, and that he and the 
whole host with him thought that the sun moved round the 
earth every day, and that on that particular occasion it 
stood still for a time, thus causing the light to remain 
longer ; and I would say that they did not conjecture that, 
from the amount of snow in the air (see Josh. x. 11), the 
refraction may have been greater than usual, or that there 
may have been some other cause which we will not now in 
quire into. 

So also the sign of the shadow going back was revealed 
to Isaiah according to his understanding ; that is, as pro 
ceeding from a going backwards of the sun ; for he, too, 
thought that the sun moves and that the earth is still ; of 
parhelia he perhaps never even dreamed. We may arrive at 
this conclusion without any scruple, for the sign could 
really have come to pass, and have been predicted by Isaiah 
to the king, without the prophet being aware of the real 

With regard to the building of the Temple by Solomon, 
if it was really dictated by GTod we must maintain the same 
doctrine : namely, that all the measurements were revealed 
according to the opinions and understanding of the king ; 
for as we are not bound to believe that Solomon was a 
mathematician, we may affirm that he was ignorant of the 
true ratio between the circumference and the diameter of a 
circle, and that, like the generality of workmen, he thought 
that it was as three to one. But if it is allowable to declare 
that we do not understand the passage, in good sooth I 
know nothing in the Bible that we can understand ; for the 
process of building is there narrated simply and as a mere 
matter of history. If, again, it is permitted to pretend that 
the passage has another meaning, and was written as it is 
from some reason unknown to us, tlu s is no less than 
a complete subversal of the Bible ; for every absurd and 
evil invention of human perversity could thus, without 
detriment to Scriptural authority, be defended and fostered. 
Our conclusion is in no wise impious, for though Solomon, 
Isaiah, Joshua, <fec. were prophets, they were none the less 
men, and as such not exempt from human shortcomings. 

According to the understanding of Noah it was revealed 


to him that God was about to destroy the whole human 
race, for Noah thought that beyond the limits of Palestine 
the world was not inhabited. 

Not only in matters of this kind, but in others more 
important, the prophets could be, and in fact were, igno 
rant; for they taught nothing special about the Divine 
attributes, but held quite ordinary notions about God, and 
to these notions their revelations were adapted, as I will 
demonstrate by ample Scriptural testimony ; from all which 
one may easily see that they were praised and commended, 
not so much for the sublimity and eminence of their intel 
lect as for their piety and faithfulness. 

Adam, the first man to whom God was revealed, did not 
know that He is omnipotent and omniscient; for he hid 
himself from Him, and attempted to make excuses for his 
fault before God, as though he had had to do with a man ; 
therefore to him also was God revealed according to his under 
standing that is, as being unaware of his situation or his 
sin, for Adam heard, or seemed to hear, the Lord walking 
in the garden, calling him and asking him where he was ; 
and then, on seeing his shamefacedness, asking him whether 
he had eaten of the forbidden fruit. Adam evidently only 
knew the Deity as the Creator of all things. To Cain also 
God was revealed, according to his understanding, as igno 
rant of human affairs, nor was a higher conception of the 
Deity required for repentance of his sin. 

To Laban the Lord revealed Himself as the God of 
Abraham, because Laban believed that each nation had its 
own special divinity (see Gen. xxxi. 29). Abraham also 
knew not that God is omnipresent, and has foreknowledge of 
all things ; for when he heard the sentence against the in 
habitants of Sodom, he prayed that the Lord should not 
execute it till He had ascertained whether they all merited 
such punishment ; for he said (see Gen. xviii. 24), " Pcrad- 
venture there be fifty righteous within the city/ and in 
accordance with this belief God was revealed to him ; as 
Abraham imagined, He spake thus : "I will go down now, 
and see whether they have done altogether according to the 
cry of it which ^is come unto Me ; and, if not, I will know." 
Further, the Divine testimony concerning Abraham asserts 
nothing but that he was obedient, and that he " commanded 


his household after him that they should keep the way of 
the Lord " (Gen. xviii. 19) ; it dot s not state that he held 
sul.)liinc conceptions of the Deity. 

Moses, also, was not sufficiently aware that God is om 
niscient, and directs human actions by His sole decree, for 
although God Himself says that the Israelites should 
hearken to Him, Moses still considered the matter doubtful 
and repeated, " But if they will not believe me, nor hearken 
unto my voice." To him in like manner God was revealed 
as taking no part in, and as being ignorant of, future human 
actions : the Lord gave him two signs and said, " And it 
shall come to pass that if they will not believe thee, neither 
hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe 
the voice of the latter sign ; but if not, thou shalt take of 
the water of the river," &c. Indeed, if any one considers 
without prejudice the recorded opinions of Moses, he will 
plainly see that Moses conceived the Deity as a Being Who 
has always existed, does exist, and always will exist, and 
for this cause he calls Him by the name Jehovah, wlu ch 
in Hebrew signifies these three phases of existence : as to 
His nature, Moses only taught that He is merciful, gracious, 
and exceeding jealous, as appears from many passages in 
the Pentateuch. Lastly, he believed and taught that this 
Being was so different from all other beings, that He could 
not be expressed by the image of any visible thing ; also, 
that He could not be looked upon, and that not so much 
from inherent impossibility as from human infirmity ; 
further, that by reason of His power He was without equal 
and unique. Moses admitted, indeed, that there were 
beings (doubtless by the plan and command of the Lord) 
who acted as God s vicegerents that is, beings to whom 
God had given the right, authority, and power to direct 
nations, and to provide and care for them ; but he taught 
that this Being Whom they were bound to obey was the 
highest and Supreme God, or (to use the Hebrew phrase) 
God of gods, and thus in the song (Exod. xv. 11) he ex 
claims, " Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, among the gods r" 
and Jethro says (Exod. xviii. 11), " Now I know that the 
Lord is greater than all gods." That is to say, " I am at 
length compelled to admit to Moses that Jehovah is greater 
t ban all crods, and that His power is unrivalled." We must 


remain in doubt whether Moses thought that these beings 
who acted as God s vicegerents were created by Him, for he has 
stated nothing, so far as we know, about their creation and 
origin. He further taught that this Being had brought the 
visible world into order from Chaos, and had given Nature 
her germs, and therefore that He possesses supreme right 
and power over all things ; further, that by reason of this 
supreme right and power He had chosen for Himself alone 
the Hebrew nation and a certain strip of territory, and had 
handed over to the care of other gods substituted by Him 
self the rest of the nations and territories, and that therefore 
He was called the God of Israel and the God of Jerusalem, 
whereas the other gods were called the gods of the Gentiles. 
For this reason the Jews believed that the strip of territory 
which God had chosen for Himself, demanded a Divine 
worship quite apart and different from the worship which 
obtained elsewhere, and that the Lord would not suffer the 
worship of other gods adapted to other countries. Thus 
they thought that the people whom the king of Assyria had 
brought into Judaea were torn in pieces by lions because 
they knew not the worship of the National Divinity 
(2 Kings xvii. 25). 

Jacob, according to Aben Ezra s opinion, therefore ad 
monished his sons when he wished them to seek out a new 
country, that they should prepare themselves for a new 
worship, and lay aside the worship of strange gods that is, 
of the gods of the land where they were (Gen. xxxv. 2, 3). 

David, in telling Saul that he was compelled by the 
king s persecution to live away from his country, said that 
he was driven out from the heritage of the Lord, and sent to 
worship other gods (1 Sam.xxvi. 19). Lastly, he believed that 
this Being or Deity had His habitation in the heavens (Dent, 
xxxiii. 27), an opinion very common among the Gentiles. 

If we now examine the revelations to Moses, we shall 
find that they were accommodated to these opinions ; as 
he believed that the Divine Nature was subject to the con 
ditions of mercy, graciousness, &c., so God was revealed 
to him in accordance with his idea and under these attri 
butes (see Exodus xxxiv. 6, 7, and the second command 
ment). Further it is related (Ex. xxxiii. 18) that Moses 
asked of God that he might behold Him, but as Moses (as 


we have said) had formed no mental image of God, and 
God (as I have shown) only revealed Himself to the pro 
phets in accordance with the disposition of their imagi 
nation, He did not reveal Himself in any form. This, I 
repeat, was because the imagination of Moses was unsuit 
able, for other prophets bear witness that they saw the 
Lord ; for instance, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, c. For this 
reason God answered Moses, " Thou canst not see My 
face;" and inasmuch as Moses believed that God can be 
looked upon that is, that no contradiction of the Divine 
nature is therein involved (for otherwise he would never 
have preferred his request) it is added, " For no one shall 
look on Me and live," thus giving a reason in accordance 
with Moses idea, for it is not stated that a contradiction 
of the Divine nature would be involved, as was really the 
case, but that the thing would not come to pass because 
of human infirmity. 

When God would reveal to Moses that the Israelites, 
because they worshipped the calf, were to be placed in the 
same category as other nations, He said (ch. YYYIIJ. 2, 3), 
that He would send an angel (that is, a being who should 
have charge of the Israelites, instead of the Supreme Being), 
and that He Himself would no longer remain among them ; 
thus leaving Moses no ground for supposing that the 
Israelites were more beloved by God than the other nations 
whose guardianship He had entrusted to other beings or 
angels (vide verse 16). 

Lastly, as Moses believed that God dwelt in the heavens, 
God was revealed to him as coming down from heaven 
on to a mountain, and in order to talk with the Lord 
Moses went up the mountain, which he certainly need 
not have done if he could have conceived of God as omni 

The Israelites knew scarcely anything of God, although 
He was revealed to them ; and this is abundantly evident 
from their transferring, a few days afterwards, the honour 
;md worship due to Him to a calf, which they believed to 
!>< the od who had brought them out of Egypt. In 
truth, it is hardly likely that men accustomed to the super- 
stitionn of Egypt, uncultivated and sunk in most abject 
slavery, should have held any sound notions about tho 


Deity, or that Moses should have taught them anything 
beyond a rule of right living; inculcating it not like a 
philosopher, as the result of freedom, but like a lawgiver 
compelling them to be moral by legal authority. Thus the 
rule of right living, the worship and love of God, was to 
them rather a bondage than the true liberty, the gift and 
grace of the Deity. Moses bid them love God and keep 
His law, because they had in the past received benefits 
from Him (such as the deliverance from slavery in Egypt), 
and further terrified them with threats if they transgressed 
His commands, holding out many promises of good if they 
should observe them ; thus treating them as parents treat 
irrational children. It is, therefore, certain that they knew 
not the excellence of virtue and the true happiness. 

Jonah thought that he was fleeing from the sight of 
God, which seems to show that he too held that God had 
entrusted the care of the nations outside Judsea to other 
substituted powers. No one in the whole of the Old Testa 
ment speaks more rationally of God than Solomon, who in 
fact surpassed all the men of his time in natural ability. 
Yet he considered himself above the law (esteeming it only 
to have been given for men without reasonable and intel 
lectual grounds for their actions), and made small account 
of the laws concerning kings, which are mainly three : nay, 
he openly violated them (in this he did wrong, and acted 
in a manner unworthy of a philosopher, by indulging in sen 
sual pleasure), and taught that all Fortune s favours to 
mankind are vanity, that humanity has no nobler gift than 
wisdom, and no greater punishment than folly. See Pro 
verbs xvi. 22, 23. 

But let us return to the prophets whose conflicting 
opinions we have undertaken to note. 

The expressed ideas of Ezekiel seemed so diverse from 
those of Moses to the Rabbis who have left us the extant 
prophetic books (as is told in the treatise of Sabbathus, i. 
13, 2), that they had serious thoughts of omitting his pro 
phecy from the canon, and would doubtless have thus 
excluded it if a certain Hananiah had not undertaken to 
explain it; a task which (as is there narrated) he with 
great zeal and labour accomplished. How he did so does 
not sufficiently appear, whether it was by writing a com- 


mentaiy which has now perished, or by altering Ezekiel s 
words and audaciously striking out phrases according to 
his fancy. However this may be, chapter xviii. certainly 
does not seem to agree with Exodus xxxiv. 7, Jeremiah 
xxxii. 18, &c. 

Samuel believed that the Lord never repented of any 
thing He had decreed (1 Sam. xv. 29), for when Saul was 
sorry for his sin, and wished to worship God and ask for 
forgiveness, Samuel said that the Lord would not go back 
from his decree. 

To Jeremiah, on the other hand, it was revealed that, 
"If that nation against whom I (the Lord) have pro 
nounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that 
I thought to do unto them. If it do evil in my sight, that 
it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good where 
with I said I would benefit them" (Jer. xviii. 8-10). Joel 
(ii. 13) taught that the Lord repented Him only of evil. 
Lastly, it is clear from Gen. iv. 7 that a man can over 
come the temptations of sin, and act righteously ; for this 
doctrine is told to Cain, though, as we learn from Josephus 
and the Scriptures, he never did so overcome them. And 
this agrees with the chapter of Jeremiah just cited, for it 
is there said that the Lord repents of the good or the evil 
pronounced, if the men in question change their ways and 
manner of life. But, on the other hand, Paul (Eom. ix. 
10) teaches as plainly as possible that men have no control 
over the temptations of the flesh save by the special voca 
tion and grace of God. And when (Eom. iii. 5 and vi. 19) 
he attributes righteousness to man, he corrects himself as 
speaking merely humanly and through the infirmity of the 

We have now more than sufficiently proved our point, 
that God adapted revelations to the understanding and 
opinions of the prophets, and that in matters of theory 
without bearing on charity or morality the prophets could 
be, and, in fact, were, ignorant, and held conflicting opinions. 
It therefore follows that we must by no means go to the 
prophets for knowledge, either of natural or of spiritual 

We have determined, then, that we are only bound to 
belie vo in the prophetic writings, the object and substance 


of the revelation ; with regard to the details, every one may 
believe or not, as he likes. 

For instance, the revelation to Cain only teaches us that 
G-od admonished him to lead the true life, for such alone is 
the object and substance of the revelation, not doctrines 
concerning free will and philosophy. Hence, though the 
freedom of the will is clearly implied in the words of the 
admonition, we are at liberty to hold a contrary opinion, 
since the words and reasons were adapted to the under 
standing of Cain. 

So, too, the revelation to Micaiah would only teach that 
God revealed to him the true issue of the battle between 
Ahab and Aram ; and this is all we are bound to believe. 
Whatever else is contained in the revelation concerning the 
true and the false Spirit of G-od, the army of heaven stand 
ing on the right hand and on the left, and all the other 
details, does not affect us at all. Every one may believe as 
much of it as his reason allows. 

The reasonings by which the Lord displayed His power 
to Job (if they really were a revelation, and the author of 
the history is narrating, and not merely, as some suppose, 
rhetorically adorning his own conceptions), would come 
under the same category that is, they were adapted to 
Job s understanding, for the purpose of convincing him, 
and are not universal, or for the convincing of all men. 

We can come to no different conclusion with respect to 
the reasonings of Christ, by which He convicted the Phari 
sees of pride and ignorance, and exhorted His disciples to 
lead the true life. He adapted them to each man s opinions 
and principles. For instance, when He said to the Phari 
sees (Matt. xii. 26), "And if Satan cast out devils, his 
house^is divided against itself, how then shall his kingdom 
stand? "He only wished to convince the Pharisees according 
to their own principles, not to teach that there are devils, 
or any kingdom of devils. So, too, when He said to His 
disciples (Matt. viii. 10), " See that ye despise not one of 
these little ones, for I say unto you that their angels," &c., 
He merely desired to warn them against pride and despising 
any of their fellows, not to insist on the actual reason 
given, which was simply adopted in order to persuade them 
more easily. 


Lastly, we should say exactly the same of the apostolic 
signs and reasonings, but there is no need to go further 
into the subject. If I were to enumerate all the passages 
of Scripture addressed only to individuals, or to a particular 
man s understanding, and which cannot, without great 
danger to philosophy, be defended as Divine doctrines, I 
should go far beyond the brevity at which I aim. Let it 
suffice, then, to have indicated a few instances of general 
application, and let the curious reader consider others by 
himself. Although the points we have just raised concern 
ing prophets and prophecy are the only ones which have 
any direct bearing on the end in view, namely, the separa 
tion of Philosophy from Theology, still, as I have touched 
on the general question, I may here inquire whether the 
gift of prophecy was peculiar to the Hebrews, or whether it 
was common to all nations. I must then come to a conclu 
sion about the vocation of the Hebrews, all of which I shall 
do in the ensuing chapter. 




man s true happiness and blessedness consist 
J-- solely in the enjoyment of what is good, not in the 
pride that he alone is enjoying it, to the exclusion of others. 
He who thinks himself the more blessed because he is en 
joying benefits which others are not, or because he is more 
blessed or more fortunate than his fellows, is ignorant of 
true happiness and blessedness, and the joy which he feels 
is either childish or envious and malicious. For instance, 
a man s true happiness consists only in wisdom, and the 
knowledge of the truth, not at all in the fact that he is 
wiser than others, or that others lack such knowledge : such 
considerations do not increase his wisdom or true happiness. 

Whoever, therefore, rejoices for such reasons, rejoices in 
another s misfortune, and is, so far, malicious and bad, 
knowing neither true happiness nor the peace of the true 

When Scripture, therefore, in exhorting the Hebrews to 
}bey the law, says that the Lord has chosen them for Him 
self before other nations (Deut. x. 15) ; that He is neai 
them, but not near others (Deut. iv. 7) ; that to them alone 
He has given just laws (Deut. iv. 8) ; and, lastly, that He 
has marked them out before others (Deut. iv. 32) ; it 
speaks only according to the understanding of its hearers, 
who, as we have shown in the last chapter, and as Moses 
also testifies (Deut. ix. 6, 7), knew not true blessedness. 
For in good sooth they would have been no less blessed if 
God had called all men equally to salvation, nor would 
God have been less present to them for being equally pre 
sent to others ; their laws would have been no less just if 
they had been ordained for all, and they themselves would 
have been no less wise. The miracles would have shown 


God s power no less by being wrought for other nations 
also ; lastly, the Hebrews would have been just as much 
bound to worship God if He had bestowed all these gifts 
equally on all men. 

When God tells Solomon (1 Kings iii. 12) that no one 
shall be as wise as he in time to come, it seems to be only 
a manner of expressing surpassing wisdom ; it is little 
to be believed that God would have promised Solomon, for 
his greater happiness, that He would never endow anyone 
with so much wisdom in time to come ; this would in no 
wise have increased Solomon s intellect, and the wise king 
would have given equal thanks to the Lord if everyone had 
been gifted with the same faculties. 

Still, though we assert that Moses, in the passages of the 
Pentateuch just cited, spoke only according to the under 
standing of the Hebrews, we have no wish to deny that 
God ordained the Mosaic law for them alone, nor that He 
spoke to them alone, nor that they witnessed marvels 
beyond those which happened to any other nation ; but we 
wish to emphasize that Moses desired to admonish the 
Hebrews in such a manner, and with such reasonings as 
would appeal most forcibly to their childish understanding, 
and constrain them to worship the Deity. Further, we 
wished to show that the Hebrews did not surpass other 
nations in knowledge, or in piety, but evidently in some 
attribute different from these ; or (to speak like the Scrip 
tures, according to their understanding), that the Hebrews 
were not chosen by God before others for the sake of the 
true life and sublime ideas, though they were often thereto 
admonished, but with some other object. What that object 
was, I will duly show. 

But before I begin, I wish in a few words to explain 
what I mean by the guidance of God, by the help of God, 
external and inward, and, lastly, what I understand by 

By the help of God, I mean the fixed and unchangeable 
order of nature or the chain of natural events : for I have 
said before and shown elsewhere that the universal laws of 
nature, according to which all things exist and are deter 
mined, are only another name for the eternal decrees of 
God, which always involve eternal truth and necessity, 


So that to say that everything happens according to natural 
laws, and to say that everything is ordained by the decree 
and ordinance of God, is the same thing. Now since the 
power in nature is identical with the power of God, by 
which alone all things happen and are determined, it follows 
that whatsoever man, as a part of nature, provides himself 
with to aid and preserve his existence, or whatsoever nature 
affords him without his help, is given to him solely by the 
Divine power, acting either through human nature or 
through external circumstance. So whatever human nature 
can furnish itself with by its own efforts to preserve its 
existence, may be fitly called the inward aid of God, whereas 
whatever else accrues to man s profit from outward causes 
may be called the external aid of God. 

We can now easily understand what is meant by the 
election of God. For since no one can do anything save by 
the predetermined order of nature, that is by God s eternal 
ordinance and decree, it follows that no one can choose a 
plan of life for himself, or accomplish any work save by 
God s vocation choosing him for the work or the plan of life 
in question, rather than any other. Lastly, by fortune, I 
mean the ordinance of God in so far as it directs human 
life through external and unexpected means. With these 
preliminaries I return to my purpose of discovering the 
reason why the Hebrews were said to be elected by God 
before other nations, and with the demonstration I thus 

All objects of legitimate desire fall, generally speaking, 
under one of these three categories : 

1. The knowledge of things through their primary causes. 

2. The government of the passions, or the acquirement 
of the habit of virtue. 

3. Secure and healthy life. 

The means which most directly conduce towards the first 
two of these ends, and which may be considered their 
proximate and efficient causes are contained in human 
nature itself, so that their acquisition hinges only on our 
own power, and on the laws of human nature. It may be 
concluded that these gifts are not peculiar to any nation, but 
have always been shared by the whole human race, unless, 
indeed, we would indulge the dream that nature formerly 


created men of different kinds. But the means which conduce 
to security and health are chiefly in external circumstance, 
and are called the gifts of fortune because they depend 
chiefly on objective causes of which we are ignorant ; for a 
fool may be almost as liable to happiness or unhappiness 
as a wise man. Nevertheless, human management and 
watchfulness can greatly assist towards living in security 
and warding off the injuries of our fellow-men, and even of 
beasts. Reason and experience show no more certain means 
of attaining this object than the formation of a society with 
fixed laws, the occupation of a strip of territory, and the 
concentration of all forces, as it were, into one body, that is 
the social body. Now for forming and preserving a society, 
no ordinary ability and care is required : that society will 
be most secure, most stable, and least liable to reverses, 
which is founded and directed by far-seeing and careful 
men ; while, on the other hand, a society constituted by 
men without trained skill, depends in a great measure on 
fortune, and is less constant. If, in spite of all, such a 
society lasts a long time, it is owing to some other directing 
influence than its own ; if it overcomes great perils and its 
affairs prosper, it will perforce marvel at and adore the 
guiding Spirit of God (in so far, that is, as God works 
through hidden means, and not through the nature and 
mind of man), for everything happens to it unexpectedly 
and contrary to anticipation, it may even be said and 
thought to be by miracle. Nations, then, are distinguished 
from one another in respect to the social organization and 
the laws under which they live and are governed ; the He 
brew nation was not chosen by God in respect to its wisdom 
nor its tranquillity of mind, but in respect to its social or 
ganization and the good fortune with which it obtained 
supremacy and kept it so many years. This is abundantly 
clear from Scripture. Even a cursory perusal will show 
us that the only respects in which the Hebrews surpassed 
other nations, are in their successful conduct of matters re 
lating to government, and in their surmounting great perils 
solely by God s external aid; in other ways they were on a 
par with their fellows, and God was equally gracious to all. 
For in respect to intellect (as we have shown in the last 
chapter) they held very ordinary ideas about God aua 


nature, so that they cannot have been God s chosen in this 
respect ; nor were they so chosen in respect of virtue and 
the true life, for here again they, with the exception of a 
very few elect, were on an equality with other nations : 
therefore their choice and vocation consisted only in the 
temporal happiness and advantages of independent rule. 
In fact, we do not see that God promised anything beyond 
this to the patriarchs 1 or their successors ; in the law no 
other reward is offered for obedience than the continual 
happiness of an independent commonwealth and other 
o-oods of this life ; while, on the other hand, against contu 
macy and the breaking of the covenant is threatened the 
downfall of the commonwealth and great hardships. Nor 
is this to be wondered at; for the ends of every social or 
ganization and commonwealth are (as appears from what 
we have said, and as we will explain more at length here 
after) security and comfort ; a commonwealth can only exist 
by the laws being binding on all. If all the members of a 
state wish to disregard the law, by that very fact they dis 
solve the state and destroy the commonwealth. Thus, the 
only reward which could be promised to the Hebrews for 
continued obedience to the law was security 2 and its atten 
dant advantages, while no surer punishment could be 
threatened for disobedience, than the ruin of the state and 
the evils which generally follow therefrom, in addition to 
such further consequences as might accrue to the Jews in 
particular from the ruin of their especial state. But there 
is no need here to go into this point at more length. I will 
only add that the laws of the Old Testament were revealed 
and ordained to the Jews only, for as God chose them in 
respect to the special constitution of their society and go 
vernment, they must, of course, have had special laws. 
Whether God ordained special laws for other nations also, 
and revealed Himself to their lawgivers prophetically, that 
is, under the attributes by which the latter were accustomed 
to imagine Him, I cannot sufficiently determine. It is evi 
dent from Scripture itself that other nations acquired 
supremacy and particular laws by the external aid of God ; 
witness only the two following passages : 

In Genesis xiv. 18, 19, 20, it is related that Melchisedek 
was king of Jerusalem and priest of the Most High God, 
1 See Note 4. 2 g e e Note 5. 


that in exercise of his priestly functions he blessed Abra- 
ham, and that Abraham the beloved of the Lord gave to 
this priest of God a tithe of all his spoils. This sufficiently 
shows that before He founded the Israelitish nation God 
constituted kings and priests in Jerusalem, and ordained 
for them rites and laws. Whether He did so prophetically 
is, as I have said, not sufficiently clear ; but I am sure of 
this, that Abraham, whilst he sojourned in the city, lived 
scrupulously according to these laws, for Abraham had re 
ceived no special rites from God ; and yet it is stated (Gen. 
xxvi. 5), that he observed the worship, the precepts, the 
statutes, and the laws of God, which must be interpreted 
to mean the worship, the statutes, the precepts, and the 
laws of king Melchisedek. Malachi chides the Jews as 
follows (i. 10-11.) : " Who is there among you that will 
shut the doors ? [of the Temple] ; neither do ye kindle 
fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, 
saith the Lord of Hosts. For from the rising of the sun, 
even until the going down of the same My Name shall be 
great among the Gentiles ; and in every place incense shall 
be offered in My Name, and a pure offering ; for My Name 
is great among the heathen, saith the Lord of Hosts." 
These words, which, unless we do violence to them, could 
only refer to the current period, abundantly testify that 
the Jews of that time were not more beloved by God than 
other nations, that God then favoured other nations with 
more miracles than He vouchsafed to the Jews, who had 
then partly recovered their empire without miraculous aid ; 
and, lastly, that the Gentiles possessed rites and ceremonies 
acceptable to God. But I pass over these points lightly : it 
is enougli for my purpose to have shown that the election 
of the Jews had regard to nothing but temporal physical 
happiness and freedom, in other words, autonomous govern 
ment, and to the manner and means by which they obtained 
it ; consequently to the laws in so far as they were neces 
sary to the preservation of that special government ; and, 
lastly, to the manner in which they were revealed. In re 
gard to other matters, wherein man s true happiness con 
sists, they were on a par with the rest of the nations. 

When, therefore, it is said in Scripture (Deut. iv. 7) that 
the Lord is not so nigh to amy other nation as He is to the 


Jews, reference is only made to their government, and to 
the period when so many miracles happened to them, for in 
respect of intellect and virtue that is, in respect of blessed 
ness God was, as we have said already, and are now de 
monstrating, equally gracious to all. Scripture itself bears 
testimony to this fact, for the Psalmist says (cxlv. 18), 
" The Lord is near unto all them that call upon Him, to 
all that call upon Him in truth." So in the same Psalm, 
verse 9, " The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies 
are over all His works." In Ps. xxxiii. 15, it is clearly 
stated that God has granted to all men the same intellect, 
in these words, " He fe.-shioneth their hearts alike." The 
heart was considered by the Hebrews, as I suppose every 
one knows, to be the seat of the soul and the intellect. 

Lastly, from Job xxxviii. 28, it is plain that God had or 
dained for the whole human race the law to reverence God, 
to keep from evil doing, or to do well, and that Job, 
although a Gentile, was of all men most acceptable to God, 
because he excelled all in piety and religion. Lastly, from 
Jonah iv. 2, it is very evident that, not only to the Jews 
but to all men, God was gracious, merciful, long-suffering, 
and of great goodness, and repented Him of the evil, for 
Jonah says : " Therefore I determined to flee before unto 
Tarshish, for I know that Thou art a gracious God, and 
merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness," &c., and 
that, therefore, God would pardon the Niuevites. We 
conclude, therefore (inasmuch as God is to all men equally 
gracious, and the Hebrews were only chosen by Him m re 
spect to their social organization and government), that the 
individual Jew, taken apart from his social organization 
and government, possessed no gift of God above other men, 
and that there was no difference between Jew and Gentile. 
As it is a fact that God is equally gracious, merciful, and 
the rest, to all men ; and as the function of the prophet 
was to teach men not so much the laws of their country, as 
true virtue, and to exhort them thereto, it is not to be 
doubted that all nations possessed prophets, and that the 
prophetic gift was not peculiar to the Jews. Indeed, his 
tory, both profane and sacred, bears witness to the fact. 
Although, from the sacred histories of the Old Testament, 
it is not evident that the other nations had as many pro- 


phets as the Hebrews, or that any Gentile prophet was ex 
pressly sent "by God to the nations, this does not affect the 
question, for the Hebrews were careful to record their own 
affairs, not those of other nations. It suffices, then, that 
we find in the Old Testament Gentiles, and uncircumcised, 
as Noah, Enoch, Abimelech, Balaam, &c., exercising pro 
phetic gifts ; further, that Hebrew prophets were sent by 
God, not only to their own nation but to many others also. 
Ezekiel prophesied to all the nations then known ; Obadiah 
to none, that we are aware of, save the Idumeans; and 
Jonah was chiefly the prophet to the Ninevites. Isaiah 
bewails and predicts the calamities, and hails the restora 
tion not only of the Jews but also of other nations, for he 
says (chap. xvi. 9), "Therefore I will bewail Jazer with 
weeping ;" and in chap. xix. he foretells first the calamities 
and then the restoration of the Egyptians (see verses 19, 
20, 21, 25), saying that God shall send them a Saviour to 
free them, that the Lord shall be known in Egypt, and, 
further, that the Egyptians shall worship God with sacri 
fice and oblation; and, at last, he calls that nation the 
blessed Egyptian people of God ; all of which particulars 
are specially noteworthy. 

Jeremiah is called, not the prophet of the Hebrew nation, 
but simply the prophet of the nations (see Jer. i. 5). He 
also mournfully foretells the calamities of the nations, and 
predicts their restoration, for he says (xlviii. 31) of the 
Moabites, " Therefore will I howl for Moab, and I will cry 
out for all Moab" (verse 36), "and therefore mine heart shall 
sound for Moab like pipes ;" in the end he prophesies their 
restoration, as also the restoration of the Egyptians, Am 
monites, and Elainites. Wherefore it is beyond doubt that 
other nations also, like the Jews, had their prophets, who 
prophesied to them. 

Although Scripture only makes mention of one man, 
Balaam, to whom the future of the Jews and the other 
nations was revealed, we must not suppose that Balaam 
prophesied only that once, for from the narrative itself it is 
abundantly clear that he had long previously been famous 
for prophecy and other Divine gifts. For when Balak bade 
him come to him, he said (Num. xxii. 6), " For I wot that 
he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest 


is cursed." Thus we see that he possessed the gift which 
God had bestowed on Abraham. Further, as accustomed 
to prophesy, Balaam bade the messengers wait for him till 
the will of the Lord was revealed to him. When he pro 
phesied, that is, when he interpreted the true mind of God, 
he was wont to say this of himself : " He hath said, which 
heard the words of God and knew the knowledge of the 
Most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty falling 
into a trance, but having his eyes open." Further, after 
he had blessed the Hebrews by the command of God, he 
began (as was his custom) to prophesy to other nations, 
and to predict their future ; all of which abundantly shows 
that he had always been a prophet, or had often prophesied, 
and (as we may also remark here) possessed that which 
afforded the chief certainty to prophets of the truth of 
their prophecy, namely, a mind turned wholly to what is 
right and good, for he did not bless those whom he wished 
to bless, nor curse those whom he wished to curse, as 
Balak supposed, but only those whom God wished to be 
blessed or cursed. Thus he answered Balak: "If Balak 
should give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot 
go beyond the commandment of the Lord to do either good 
or bad of my own mind ; but what the Lord saith, that 
will I speak." As for God being angry with him in the 
way, the same happened to Moses when he set out to 
Egypt by the command of the Lord ; and as to his receiving 
money for prophesying, Samuel did the same (1 Sam. ix. 
7,8); if in anv way he sinned, " there is not a just man upon 
earth that doeth good and sinneth not," Eccles. vii. 20. 
(Vide 2 Epist. Peter ii. 15, 16, and Jude 5, 11.) 

His speeches must certainly have had much weight with 
God, and His power for cursing must assuredly have been 
very great from the number of times that we find stated in 
Scripture, in proof of God s great mercy to the Jews, that 
God would not hear Balaam, and that He changed the 
cursing to blessing (see Deut. xxiii. 6, Josh. xxiv. io, Neh. 
xiii. 2). Wherefore he was without doubt most acceptable 
to God, for the speeches and cursings of the wicked move 
God not at all. As then he was a true prophet, and never 
theless Joshua calls him a soothsayer or augur, it is certain 
that this title had an honourable signification, and that 


those whom the Gentiles called augurs and soothsayers 
were true prophets, while those whom Scripture often 
accuses and condemns were false soothsayers, who deceived 
the Gentiles as false prophets deceived the Jews; indeed, 
this is made evident from other passages in the Bible, 
whence we conclude that the gift of prophecy was not 
peculiar to the Jews, but common to all nations. The 
Pharisees, however, vehemently contend that this Divine 
gift was peculiar to their nation, and that the other nations 
foretold the future (what will superstition invent next?) 
by some unexplained diabolical faculty. The principal pas 
sage of Scripture which they cite, by way of confirming 
their theory with its authority, is Exodus xxxiii. 16, where 
Moses says to God, " For wherein shall it be known here 
that I and Thy people have found grace in Thy sight ? is 
it not in that Thou goest with us ? so shall we be separated, 
I and Thy people, from all the people that are upon the 
face of the earth." From this they would infer that Moses 
asked of God that He should be present to the Jews, and 
should reveal Himself to them prophetically ; further, that, 
He should grant this favour to no other nation. It is 
surely absurd that Moses should have been jealous of 
( rod s presence among the Gentiles, or that he should have 
dared to ask any such thing. The fact is, as Moses knew 
t hat the disposition and spirit of his nation was rebellious, 
he clearly saw that they could not carry out what they had 
1 >egun without very great miracles and special external aid 
from God ; nay, that without such aid they must necessarily 
perish : as it was evident that God wished them to be pre 
served, He asked for this special external aid. Thus he 
says (Ex. xxxiv. 9), " If now I have found grace in Thy 
sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray Thee, go among us ; for 
it is a stiffnecked people." The reason, therefore, for his 
seeking special external aid from God was the stiffnecked- 
ness of the people, and it is made still more plain, that he 
asked for nothing beyond this special external aid by God s 
answer for God answered at once (verse 10 of the same 
chaj >ter) " Behold, I make a covenant : before all Thy people 
I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the 
earth, nor in any nation." Therefore Moses had in view 
nothing beyond the special ek ction of the Jews, as I have 


explained it, and made no other request to God. I confess 
that in Paul s Epistle to the Eomans, I find another text 
which carries more weight, namely, where Paul seems to 
teach a different doctrine from that here set down, for he 
there says (Eom. iii. 1) : " What advantage then the 
Jew ? or what profit is there of circumcision ? Much every 
way : chiefly, because that unto them were committed the 
oracles of God." 

But if we look to the doctrine which Paul especially 
desired to teach, we shall find nothing repugnant to our 
present contention; on the contrary, his doctrine is the same 
as ours, for he says (Eom. iii. 29) " that God is the God 
of the Jews and of the Gentiles, and" (ch. ii. 25, 26) 
" But, if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is 
made uncircumcision. Therefore if the uncircumcision keep 
the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision 
be counted for circumcision ? " Further, in chap. iv. verse 9, 
he says that all alike, Jew and Gentile, were under sin, 
and that without commandment and law there is no sin! 
Wherefore it is most evident that to all men absolutely 
was revealed the law under which all lived namely, the 
law which has regard only to true virtue, not the law 
established in respect to, and in the formation of, a par 
ticular state and adapted to the disposition of a particular 
people. Lastly, Paul concludes that since God is the God 
of all nations, that is, is equally gracious to all, and since 
all men equally live under the law and under sin, so also 
to all nations did God send His Christ, to free all men 
equally from the bondage of the law, that they should no 
more do right by the command of the law, but by the con 
stant determination of their hearts. So that Paul teaches 
exactly the same as ourselves. When, therefore, he says, 
"To the Jews only were entrusted the oracles of God," 
we must either understand that to them only were the 
laws entrusted in writing, while they were given to other 
nations merely in revelation and conception, or else (as 
none but Jews would object to the doctrine he desired to 
advance) that Paul was answering only in accordance with 
the understanding and current ideas of the Jews, for in 
respect to teaching things which he had partly seen, partly 
heard, he was to the Greeks a Greek, and to the Jews a Jew. 


It, now only remains to us to answer the arguments of 
those who would persuade themselves that the election of 
the Jews was not temporal, and merely in respect of their 
commonwealth, hut eternal ; for, they say, we see the Jews 
after the loss of their commonwealth, and after being scat 
tered so many years and separated from all other nations, 
still surviving, which is without parallel among other 
peoples, and further the Scriptures seem to teach that God 
has chosen for Himself the Jews for ever, so that though 
they have lost their commonwealth, they still nevertheless 
remain God s elect. 

The passages which they think teach most clearly this 
eternal election, are chiefly : 

(1.) Jer. xxxi. 36, where the prophet testifies that the seed 
of Israel shall for ever remain the nation of God, com 
paring them with the stability of the heavens and nature ; 

(2.) Ezek. xx. 32, where the prophet seems to intend that 
though the Jews wanted after the help afforded them to 
turn their backs on the worship of the Lord, that God 
would nevertheless gather them together again from all the 
lands in which they were dispersed, and lead them to the 
wilderness of the peoples as He had led their fathers to 
the wilderness of the land of Egypt and would at length, 
after purging out from among them the rebels and trans 
gressors, bring them thence to his Holy mountain, where the 
whole house of Israel should worship Him. Other passages 
are also cited, especially by the Pharisees, but I think I shall 
satisfy everyone if I answer these two, and this I shall 
easily accomplish after showing from Scripture itself that 
God chose not the Hebrews for ever, but only on the con 
dition under which He had formerly chosen the Canaanites, 
for these last, as we have shown, had priests who religiously 
worsliipped God, and whom God at length rejected because 
of their luxury, pride, and corrupt worship. 

Moses (Lev. xviii. 27) warned the Israelites that they be 
not polluted with whoredoms, lest the land spue them out 
as it had spued out the nations who had dwelt there be fore, 
and in Deut. viii. 19, 20, in the plainest terms fie threatens 
their total ruin, for He says, "I testify against you that ye 
shall surely perish. As the nations which the Lord de- 
Btroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish." In like 


manner many other passages are found in the law which 
expressly show that God chose the Hebrews neither abso 
lutely nor for ever. If, then, the prophets foretold for 
them a new covenant of the knowledge of God, love, and 
grace, such a promise is easily proved to be only made to the 
elect, for Ezekiel in the chapter which we have just quoted 
expressly says that God will separate from them the rebel 
lious and transgressors, and Zephaniah (iii. 12, 13), says 
that "God will take away the proud from the midst of 
them, and leave the poor." Now, inasmuch as their election 
has regard to true virtue, it is not to be thought that it 
was promised to the Jews alone to the exclusion of others, 
but we must evidently believe i^hat the true Gentile pro 
phets (and every nation, as we have shown, possessed such) 
promised the same to the faithful of their own people, who 
were thereby comforted. Wherefore this eternal covenant 
of the knowledge of God and love is universal, as is clear, 
moreover, from Zeph. iii. 10, 11 : no difference in this re 
spect can be admitted between Jew and Gentile, nor did 
the former en joy any special election beyond that which we 
have pointed out. 

When the prophets, in speaking of this election which re 
gards only true virtue, mixed up much concerning sacri 
fices and ceremonies, and the rebuilding of the temple and 
city, they wished by such figurative expressions, after the 
manner and nature of prophecy, to expound matters spiri 
tual, so as at the same time to show to the Jews, whose 
prophets they were, the true restoration of the state and of 
the temple to be expected about the time of Cyrus. 

At the present time, therefore, there is absolutely nothing 
which the Jews can arrogate to themselves beyond other 

As to their continuance so long after dispersion and the 
loss of empire, there is nothing marvellous in it, for they so 
separated themselves from every other nation as to draw 
down upon themselves universal hate, not only by their 
outward rites, rites conflicting with those of other nations, 
but also by the sign of circumcision which they most scrupu 
lously observe. 

That they have been preserved in great measure by 
Gentile hatred, experience demonstrates. When the king 


of Spain formerly compelled the Jews to embrace the State 
religion or to go into exile, a large number of Jews accepted 
Catholicism. Now, as these renegades were admitted to all 
the native privileges of Spaniards, and deemed worthy of 
filling all honourable offices, it came to pass that they 
straightway became so intermingled with the Spaniards as 
to leave of themselves no relic or remembrance. But, 
exactly the opposite happened to those whom the king of 
Portugal compelled to become Christians, for they always, 
though converted, lived apart, inasmuch as they were con 
sidered unworthy of any civic honours. 

The sign of circumcision is, as I think, so important, 
that I could persuade myself that it alone would preserve 
the nation for ever. Nay, I would go so far as 1<> believe 
that if the foundations of their religion have not emascu 
lated their minds they may even, if occasion offers, so 
changeable are human affairs, raise up their empire afresh, 
and that God may a second time elect them. 

Of such a possibility we have a very famous example in 
the Chinese. They, too, have some distinctive mark on 
their heads which they most scrupulously observe, and by 
which they keep themselves apart from everyone else, and 
have thus kept themselves during so many thousand years 
that they far surpass all other nations in antiquity. They 
have not always retained empire, but they have recovered 
it when lost, and doubtless will do so again after the spirit 
of the Tartars becomes relaxed through the luxury of 
riches and pride. 

Lastly, if any one wishes to maintain that the Jews, from 
this or from any other cause, have been chosen by God for 
ever, I will not gainsay him if he will admit that this choice, 
whether temporary or eternal, has no regard, in so far as it 
is peculiar to the Jews, to aught but dominion and physical 
advantages (for by such alone can one nation be distin 
guished from another), whereas in regard to intellect and 
true virtue, every nation is on a par with the rest, and God 
lias not in these respects chosen one people rather than 




HP HE word law, taken in the abstract, means that by 
*- which an individual, or all things, or as many things as 
belong to a particular species, act in one and the same fixed 
and definite manner, which manner depends either on natural 
necessity or on human decree. A law which depends on 
natural necessity is one which necessarily follows from the 
nature, or from the definition of the thing in question; a 
law which depends on human decree, and which is more 
correctly called an ordinance, is one which men have laid 
down for themselves and others in order to live more safely or 
conveniently, or from some similar reason. 

For example, the law that all bodies impinging on lesser 
bodies, lose as much of their own motion as they commu 
nicate to the latter is a universal law of all bodies, and de 
pends on natural necessity. So, too, the law that a man in 
remembering one thing, straightway remembers another 
either like it, or which he had perceived simultaneously 
with it, is a law which necessarily follows from the nature 
of man. But the law that men must yield, or be compelled 
to yield, somewhat of their natural right, and that they bind 
themselves to live in a certain way, depends on human 
decree. Now, though I freely admit that all things are 

] predetermined by universal natural laws to exist and operate 
in a given, fixed, and definite manner, I still assert that the 
laws I have just mentioned depend on human decree. 
(1.) Because man, in so far as he is apart of nature, con- 

/ statutes a part of the power of nature. Whatever, therefore, 
follows necessarily from the necessity of human nature 
(that is, from nature herself, in so far as we conceive of her 
as acting through man) follows, even though it be neces 
sarily, from human power. Hence the sanction of such 
laws may very well be said to depend on man s decree, for 
it principally depends on the power of the human mind ; so 


that the Imman mind in respect to its perception of things 
as true and false, can readily be conceived as without such 
laws, but not without necessary law as we have just defined it. 

(2.) I have stated that these laws depend on human decree 
because it is well to define and explain things by their proxi 
mate causes. The general consideration of fate and the 
concatenation of causes would aid us very little in forming 
and arranging our ideas concerning particular questions. 
Let us add that as to the actual co-ordination and concate 
nation of things, that is, how things are ordained and linked 
together, we are obviously ignorant ; therefore, it is more 
profitable for right living, nay, it is necessary for us to con 
sider things as contingent. So much about law in the 

Now the word law seems to be only applied to natural 
phenomena by analogy, and is commonly taken to signify 
a command which men can either obey or neglect, inasmuch 
as it restrains human nature within certain originally ex 
ceeded limits, and therefore lays down no rule beyond human 
strength. Thus it is expedient to define law more particu 
larly as a plan of life laid down by man for himself or 
others with a certain object. 

However, as the true object of legislation is only per 
ceived by a few, and most men are almost incapable of 
grasping it, though they live under its conditions, legis 
lators, with a view to exacting general obedience, have wisely 
put forward another object, very different from that which 
necessarily follows from the nature of law : they promise to 
the observers of the law that which the masses chiefly de 
sire, and threaten its violators with that which they chiefly 
fear : thus endeavouring to restrain the masses, as far as 
may be, like a horse with a curb ; whence it follows that 
the word law is chiefly applied to the modes of life enjoined 
on men by the sway of others ; hence those who obey the 
law are said to live under it and to be under compulsion. 
In truth, a man who renders everyone their due because 
he fears the gallows, acts under the sway and compulsion 
of others, and cannot be called just. But a man who does 
the same from a knowledge of the true reason for laws and 
their necessity, acts from a firm purpose and of his own 
accord, and is therefore properly called just. This, I take 


it, is Paul s meaning when lie says, tliat those who live 
under the law cannot be justified through the law, for jus 
tice, as commonly denned, is the constant and perpetual 
will to render every man his due. Thus Solomon says 
(Prov. xxi. 15), " It is a joy to the just to do judgment," 
but the wicked fear. 

Law, then, being a plan of living which men have for a 
certain object laid down for themselves or others, may, as 
it seems, be divided into Jmman law and Divine law. 

By human law I mean a plan of living which serves only 
to render life and the state secure. 

By Divine law I mean that which only regards the highest 
good, in other words, the true knowledge of God and love. 
" I call this law Divine because of the nature of the highest 
good, which I will here shortly explain as clearly as I can. 

Inasmuch as the intellect is the best part of our being, it 
is evident that we should make every effort to perfect it as 
far as possible if we desire to search for what is really pro 
fitable to us. For in intellectual perfection the highest 
good should consist. Now, since all our knowledge, and the 
certainty which removes every doubt, depend solely on the 
knowledge of God ; firstly, because without God nothing 
can exist or be conceived ; secondly, because so long as we 
have no clear and distinct idea of God we may remain in 
universal doubt it follows that our highest good and per 
fection also depend solely on the knowledge of God. Fur 
ther, since without God nothing can exist or be con 
ceived, it is evident that all natural phenomena involve 
and express the conception of God as far as their essence 
and perfection extend, so that we have greater and more 
perfect knowledge of God in proportion to our knowledge 
of natural phenomena : conversely (since the knowledge of 
an effect through its cause is the same thing as the know 
ledge of a particular property of a cause) the greater our 
knowledge of natural phenomena, the more perfect is our 
knowledge of the essence of God (which is the cause of all 
things). So, then, our highest good not only depends on 
the knowledge of God, but wholly consists therein ; and it 
further follows that man is perfect or the reverse in propor 
tion to the nature and perfection of the object of his special 
desire ; hence the most perfect and the chief sharer in the 


highest blessedness is he who prizes above all else, and takes 
especial delight in, the intellectual knowledge of God, the 
most perfect Being. 

Hither, then, our highest good and our highest blessed 
ness aim namely, to the knowledge and love of God; there 
fore the means demanded by this aim of all human actions, 
that is, by God in so far as the idea of him is in us, may be 
called the commands of God, because they proceed, as it 
were, from God Himself, inasmuch as He exists in our minds, 
and the plan of life which has regard to this aim may be 
fitly called the law of God. 

The nature of the means, and the plan of life which this 
aim demands, how the foundations of the best states folios- 
its lines, and how men s life is conducted, are questions per 
taining to general ethics. Here I only proceed to treat of 
the Divine law in a particular application. 

As the love of God is man s highest happiness and blessed 
ness, and the ultimate end and aim of all human actions, 
it follows that he alone lives by the Divine law who loves 
God not from fear of punishment, or from love of any other 
object, such as sensual pleasure, fame, or the like; but 
solely because he has knowledge of God, or is convinced that 
the knowledge and love of God is the highest good. The 
sum and chief precept, then, of the Divine law is to love God 
as the highest good, namely, as we have said, not from fear 
of any pains and penalties, or from the love of any other 
object in which we desire to take pleasure. The idea of 
God lays down the rule that God is our highest good in 
other words, that the knowledge and love of God is the ulti 
mate aim to which all our actions should be directed. The 
worldling cannot understand these things, they appear 
foolishness to him, because he has too meagre a knowledge 
of God, and also because in this highest good he can dis 
cover nothing which he can handle or eat, or which affects 
the fleshly appetites wherein he chiefly delighfs, for it con 
sists solely in thought and the pure reason. They, on the other 
hand, who know that they possess no greater gift than in 
tellect and sound reason, will doubtless accept what I have 
said without question. 

We have now explained that wherein the Divine law chiefly 
consists, and what are human laws, uamelv, all those which 


have a different aim unless they have been ratified by 
revelation, for in this respect also things are referred to 
God (as we have shown above) and in this sense the law of 
Moses, although it was not universal, but entirely adapted 
to the disposition and particular preservation of a single 
people, may yet be called a law of God or Divine law, inas 
much as we believe that it was ratified by prophetic insight. 
If we consider the nature of natural Divine law as we 
have just explained it, we shall see 

I. That it is universal or common to all men, for we 
have deduced it from universal human nature. 

IE. That it does not depend on the truth of any historical 
narrative whatsoever, for inasmuch as this natural Divine 
law is comprehended solely by the consideration of human 
nature, it is plain that we can conceive it as existing as 
well in Adam as in any other man, as well in a man living 
among his fellows, as in a man who lives by himself. 

The truth of a historical narrative, however assured, can 
not give us the knowledge nor consequently the love of 
God, for love of God springs from knowledge of Him, and 
knowledge of Him should be derived from general ideas, in 
themselves certain and known, so that the truth of a his 
torical narrative is very far from being a necessary requisite 
for our attaining our highest good. 

Still, though the truth of histories cannot give us the 
knowledge and love of God, I do not deny that reading 
them is very useful with a view to life in the world, for 
the more we have observed and known of men s customs 
and circumstances, which are best revealed by their actions, 
the more warily we shall be able to order our lives among 
them, and so far as reason dictates to adapt our actions to 
their dispositions. 

III. We see that this natural Divine law does not demand 
the performance of ceremonies that is, actions in themselves 
indifferent, which are called good from the fact of their 
institution, or actions symbolizing something profitable for 
salvation, or (if one prefers this definition) actions of which 
the meaning surpasses human understanding. The natural 
light of reason does not demand anything which it is itself 
unable to supply, but only such as it can very clearly show 
to be good, or a means to our blessedness. Such things as 


are good simply because they have been commanded or 
instituted, or as being symbols of something good, are mere 
shadows which cannot be reckoned among actions that are 
the offspring, as it were, or fruit of a sound mind and 
of intellect. There is no need for me to go into this now 
in more detail. 

IV. Lastly, we see that the highest reward of the Divine 
law is the law itself, namely, to know God and Lo love 
Him of our free choice, and with an undivided and fruitful 
spirit ; while its penalty is the absence of these things, and 
being in bondage to the flesh that is, having an inconstant 
and wavering spirit. 

These points being noted, I must now inquire 

I. Whether by the natural light of reason we can con 
ceive of God as a law-giver or potentate ordaining laws for 
men ? 

II. What is the teaching of Holy Writ concerning this 
natural light of reason and natural law ? 

III. With what objects were ceremonies formerly insti 

IV. Lastly, what is the good gained by knowing the 
sac-red histories and believing them ? 

Of the first two I will treat in this chapter, of the re 
maining two in the following one. 

Our conclusion about the iirst is easily deduced from the 
nature of God s will, which is only distinguished from His 
understanding in relation to our intellect that is, the will 
and the understanding of God are in reality one and the 
bame, and are only distinguished in relation to our thoughts 
which we form concerning God s understanding. For 
instance, if we are only looking to the fact that the nature 
of a triangle is from eternity contained in the Divine 
nature as an eternal verity, we say that God possesses tin- 
idea of a triangle, or that He understands the nature of a 
triangle; but if afterwards we look to the fact that tin- 
nature of a triangle is thus contained in the Divine nature, 
solely by the necessity of the Divine nature, and not by the 
necessity of the nature and essence of a triangle in fact, 
t hat the necessity of a triangle s essence and nature, in so 
far as they are conceived of as eternal verities, depends 
aololy on the necessity of the Divine nature and intellect, 


we then style God s will or decree, that which before we 
styled His intellect. Wherefore we make one and the same 
affirmation concerning God when we say that He has from 
eternity decreed that three angles of a triangle are equal 
to two right angles, as when we say that He has under- 
stood it. 

Hence the affirmations and the negations of God always 
involve necessity or truth; so that, for example, if God 
said to Adam that He did not wish him to eat of the tree 
of knowledge of good and evil, it would have involved a 
contradiction that Adam should have been able to eat of it, 
and would therefore have been impossible that he should 
have so eaten, for the Divine command would have involved 
an eternal necessity and truth. But since Scripture never 
theless narrates that God did give this command to Adam, 
and yet that none the less Adam ate of the tree, we must 
perforce say that God revealed to Adam the evil which 
would surely follow if he should eat of the tree, but did 
not disclose that such evil would of necessity come to pass. 
Thus it was that Adam took the revelation to be not an 
eternal and necessary truth, but a law that is, an ordinance 
followed by gain or loss, not depending necessarily on the 
nature of the act performed, but solely on the will and 
absolute power of some potentate, so that the revelation in 
question was solely in relation to Adam, and solely through 
his lack of knowledge a law, and God was, as it were, a law 
giver and potentate. From the same cause, namely, from 
lack of knowledge, the Decalogue in relation to the Hebrews 
was a law, for since they knew not the existence of God as 
an eternal truth, they must have taken as a law that which 
was revealed to them in the Decalogue, namely, that God 
exists, and that God only should be worshipped. But if 
God had spoken to them without the intervention of any 
bodily means, immediately they would have perceived it 
not as a law, but as an eternal truth. 

What we have said about the Israelites and Adam, 
applies also to all the prophets who wrote laws in God a 
name they did not adequately conceive God s decrees as 
eternal truths. For instance, we must say of Moses that 
from revelation, from the basis of what was revealed to 
him, he perceived the method by which the Israelitish nation 


could best be united in a particular territory, and could 
form a body politic or state, and further that he perceived 
the method by which that nation could best be constrained 
to obedience ; but he did not perceive, nor was it revealed 
to him, that this method was absolutely the best, nor that 
the obedience of the people in a certain strip of territory 
would necessarily imply the end he had in view. Where 
fore he perceived these things not as eternal truths, but as 
precepts and ordinances, and he ordained them as laws of 
God, and thus it came to be that he conceived God as a 
ruler, a legislator, a king, as merciful, just, &c., whereas 
such qualities are simply attributes of human nature, and 
utterly alien from the nature of the Deity. Thus much 
we may affirm of the prophets who wrote laws in the name 
of God ; but we must not affirm it of Clirist, for Christ, 
although He too seems to have written laws in the name of 
God, must be taken to have had a clear and adequate per 
ception, for Christ was not so much a prophet as the 
mouthpiece of God. For God made revelations to mankind 
through Christ as He had before done through angels that 
is, a created voice, visions, &c. It would be as unreasonable 
to say that God had accommodated his revelations to the 
opinions of Christ as that He had before accommodated them 
to the opinions of angels (that is, of a created voice or visions) 
as matters to be revealed to the prophets, a wholly absurd 
hypothesis. Moreover, Christ was sent to teach not only 
the Jews but the whole human race, and therefore it was 
not enough that His mind should be accommodated to the 
opinions of the Jews alone, but also to the opinion and 
fundamental touching common to the whole human race- 
in other words, to ideas universal and true. Inasmuch as 
God revealed Himself to Christ, or to Christ s mind imme 
diately, and not as to the prophets through words and 
symbols, we must needs suppose that Christ perceived truly 
what was revealed, in other words, He understood it, for a 
matter is understood when it is perceived simply by the 
mind without words or symbols. 

Christ, then, perceived (truly and adequately) what was 
revealed, and if He ever proclaimed such revelations as 
laws, He did so because of the ignorance and obstinacy of 
the people, acting in this respect the part of God; inas- 


much as Ho accommodated Himself to tlie comprehension 
of the people, and though He spoke somewhat more clearly 
than the other prophets, yet He taught what was revealed 
obscurely, and generally through parables, especially when 
He was speaking to those to whom it was not yet given to 
understand the kingdom of heaven. (See Matt. xiii. 10, &c.) 
To those to whom it was given to understand the mysteries 
of heaven, He doubtless taught His doctrines as eternal 
truths, and did not lay them down as laws, thus freeing 
the minds of His hearers from the bondage of that law 
which He further confirmed and established. Paul appa 
rently points to this more than once (e.g. Bom. vii. 6, and 
iii. 28), though he never himself seems to wish to speak 
openly, but, to quote his own words (Bom. iii. 5, and vi. 19), 
" merely humanly." This he expressly states when he calls 
God just, and it was doubtless in concession to human 
weakness that he attributes mercy, grace, anger, and 
similar qualities to God, adapting his language to the 
popular mind, or, as he puts it (1 Cor. iii. 1, 2), to carnal 
men. In Eom. ix. 18, he teaches undisguisedly that God s 
anger and mercy depend not on the actions of men, but on 
God s own nature or will ; further, that no one is justified 
by the works of the law, but only by faith, which he seems 
to identify with the full assent of the soul ; lastly, that no 
one is blessed unless he have in him the mind of Christ 
(Eom. viii. 9), whereby he perceives the laws of God as 
eternal truths. We conclude, therefore, that God is de 
scribed as a lawgiver or prince, and styled just, merciful, 
&c., merely in concession to popular understanding, and 
the imperfection of popular knowledge; that in reality 
God acts and directs all things simply by the necessity of 
His nature and perfection, and that His decrees and voli 
tions are eternal truths, and always involve necessity. So 
much for the first point which I wished to explain and de 

Passing on to the second point, let us search the sacred 
pages for their teaching concerning the light of nature and 
this Divine law. The first doctrine we find in the history 
of the first man, where it is narrated that God commanded 
Adam not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge 
of good and evil ; this seems to mean that God commanded 



Adam to do and to seek after righteousness because it was 
good, not because the contrary was evil : that is, to seek the 
good for its own sake, not from fear of evil. We have seen 
that he who acts rightly from the true knowledge and love 
of right, acts with freedom and constancy, whereas he who 
acts from fear of evil, is under the constraint of evil, and 
acts in bondage under external control. So that this com 
mandment of God to Adam comprehends the whole Divine 
natural law, and absolutely agrees with the dictates of the 
light of nature ; nay, it would be easy to explain on this 
basis the whole history or allegory of the first man. But I 
prefer to pass over the subject in silence, because, in the 
first place, I cannot be absolutely certain that my explana 
tion would be in accordance with the intention of the 
sacred writer ; and, secondly, because many do not admit 
that this history is an allegory, maintaining it to be a 
simple narrative of facts. It will be better, therefore, to 
adduce other passages of Scripture, especially such as were 
written by him, who speaks with all the strength of his 
natural understanding, in which he surpassed all his con 
temporaries, and whose sayings are accepted by the people 
as of equal weight with those of the prophets. I mean Solo 
mon, whose prudence and wisdom are commended in Scrip 
ture rather than his piety and gift of prophecy. He, in 
his proverbs calls the human intellect the well-spring of 
true life, and declares that misfortune is made up of folly. 
" Understanding is a well-spring of life to him that hath it; 
but the instruction of fools is folly," Prov. xvi. 22. Life 
being taken to mean the true life (as is evident from 
Dent. xxx. 19), the fruit of the understanding consists 
only in the true life, and its absence constitutes punish 
ment. All this absolutely agrees with what was set out in 
our fourth point concerning natural law. Moreover our 
position that it is the well-spring of life, and that the in 
tellect alone lays down laws for the wise, is plainly taught 
by the sage, for he says (Prov. xiii. 14) : " The law of the 
wise is a fountain of life " that is, as we gather from tho 
preceding text, the understanding. In chap. iii. 13, he ex 
pressly teaches that the understanding renders man blessed 
and happy, and gives him true peace of mind. "Happy is 
the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that gettetb 


understanding," for " Wisdom gives length of days, and 
riches and honour ; her ways are ways of pleasantness, and 
all her paths peace" (xiii. 16, 17). According to Solomon, 
therefore, it is only the wise who live in peace and equa 
nimity, not like the wicked whose minds drift hither and 
thither, and (as Isaiah says, chap. Ivii. 20) " are like the 
troubled sea, for them there is no peace." 

Lastly, we should especially note the passage in chap. ii. 
of Solomon s proverbs which most clearly confirms our con 
tention : " If thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy 
voice for understanding . . . then shalt thou understand the 
fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God; for the 
Lord giveth wisdom ; out of His mouth cometh knowledge 
and understanding." These words clearly enunciate (1), 
that wisdom or intellect alone teaches us to fear God wisely 
that is, to worship Him truly; (2), that wisdom and know 
ledge flow from God s mouth, and that God bestows on us 
this gift ; this we have already shown in proving that our 
understanding and our knowledge depend on, spring from, 
and are perfected by the idea or knowledge of God, and 
nothing else. Solomon goes on to say in so many words 
that this knowledge contains and involves the true prin 
ciples of ethics and politics : " When wisdom entereth into 
thy heart, and knowledge is pleasant to thy soul, discretion 
shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee, then 
shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and 
equity, yea every good path." All of which is in obvious 
agreement with natural knowledge : for after we have come 
to the understanding of things, and have tasted the excel 
lence of knowledge, she teaches us ethics and true virtue. 

_ Thus the happiness and the peace of him who cultivates 
his natural understanding lies, according to Solomon also, 
not so much under the dominion of fortune (or God s ex 
ternal aid) as in inward personal virtue (or God s internal 
aid), for the latter can to a great extent be preserved by 
vigilance, right action, and thought. 

Lastly, we must by 110 means over the passage in 
Paul s Epistle to the Komans, i. 20, in which he says: 
" For the invisible things of God from the creation of the 
world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that 
are made, even His eternal power and Godhead j so that 


they arc without excuse, because, when they knew God, 
they glorified Him not as God, neither were they thankful. 
These words clearly show that everyone can by the light of 
nature clearly understand the goodness and the eternal 
divinity of God, and can thence know and deduce whz.t 
they should seek for and what avoid ; wherefore the Apostle 
says that they are without excuse and cannot plead, igno 
rance, as they certainly might if it were a question of 
supernatural light and the incarnation, passion, and resur 
rection of Christ. " Wherefore," he goes on to say (16. 24) 
" God gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts ot 
their own hearts;" and so on, through the rest of the 
chapter, he describes the vices of ignorance, and sets them 
forth as the punishment of ignorance. This obviously 
agrees with the verse of Solomon, already quoted, " The 
instruction of fools is folly," so that it is easy to understand 
why Paul says that the wicked are without excuse. As 
every man sows so shall he reap : out of evil, evils neces 
sarily spring, unless they be wisely counteracted. 

Thus we see that Scripture literally approves of the light 
of natural reason and the natural Divine law, and I have 
fulfilled the promises made at the beginning of this chapter. 




T N tlic foregoing chapter we have shown that the Divine 
I law, which renders men truly blessed, and teaches them 
the true life, is universal to all men ; nay, we have so inti 
mately deduced it from human nature that it must be es 
teemed innate, and, as it were, ingrained in the human mind. 
But with regard to the ceremonial observances which 
were ordained in the Old Testament for the Hebrews only, 
and were so adapted to their state that they could for the 
most part only be observed by the society as a whole and 
not by each individual, it is evident that they formed no 
part of the Divine law, and had nothing to do with blessed 
ness and virtue, but had reference only to the election of 
the Hebrews, that is (as I have shown in Chap. III.), to 
their temporal bodily happiness and the tranquillity of 
their kingdom, and that therefore they were only valid 
while that kingdom lasted. If in the Old Testament they 
are spoken of as the law of God, it is only because they 
were founded on revelation, or a basis of revelation. Still 
as reason, however sound, has little weight with ordinary 
theologians, I will adduce the authority of Scripture for 
what I here assert, and will further show, for the sake of 
greater clearness, why and how these ceremonials served 
to establish and preserve the Jewish kingdom. Isaiah 
teaches most plainly that the Divine law in its strict sense 
signifies that universal law which consists in a true manner 
of life, and does not signify ceremonial observances. In 
chapter i., verse 10, the prophet calls on his countrymen 
to hearken to the Divine law as he delivers it, and first 
excluding all kinds of sacrifices and all feasts, he at length 
sums up the law in these few words, " Cease to do evil, 
learn to do well: seek judgment, relieve the oppressed." 


Not less striking testimony is given in Psalm xl. 7-9, where 
the Psalmist addresses God : " Sacrifice and offering Thou 
didst not desire ; mine ears hast Thou opened ; burnt offer 
ing and sin-offering hast Thou not required ; I delight to 
do Thy will, O my God ; yea, Thy law is within my heart." 
Here the Psalmist reckons as the law of God only that 
which is inscribed in his heart, and excludes ceremonies 
therefrom, for the latter are good and inscribed on the 
heart only from the fact of their institution, and not 
because of their intrinsic value. 

Other passages of Scripture testify to the same truth, 
"but these two will suffice. We may also learn from the 
Bible that ceremonies are no aid to blessedness, but only 
have reference to the temporal prosperity of the kingdom ; 
for the rewards promised for their observance are merely 
temporal advantages and delights, blessedness being re 
served for the universal Divine law. In all the five books 
commonly attributed to Moses nothing is promised, as I 
have said, beyond temporal benefits, such as honours, fame, 
victories, riches, enjoyments, and health. Though many 
moral precepts besides ceremonies are contained in these 
five books, they appear not as moral doctrines universal to 
all men, but as commands especially adapted to the under 
standing and character of the Hebrew people, and as 
having reference only to the welfare of the kingdom. For 
instance, Moses does not teach the Jews as a prophet not 
to kill or to steal, but gives these commandments solely 
as a lawgiver and judge; he does not reason out the doc 
trine, but affixes for its non-observance a penalty which 
may and very properly does vary in different nations. So, 
too, the command not to commit adultery is given merely 
with reference to the welfare of the state ; for if the moral 
doctrine had been intended, with reference not only to the 
welfare of the state, but also to the tranquillity and 
blessedness of the individual, Moses would have condemned 
not merely the outward act, but also the mental acquies 
cence, as is done by Christ, Who taught only universal 
moral precepts, and for this cause promises a spiritual 
instead of a temporal reward. Christ, as I have said, was 
sent into the world, not to preserve the state nor to lay 
ilo\vn laws, but solely to teach the universal moral law, so 


we can easily understand that He wished in nowise to do 
away with the law of Moses, inasmuch as He introduced 
no new laws of His own His sole care was to teach moral 
doctrines, and distinguish them from the laws of the 
state ; for the Pharisees, in their ignorance, thought that 
the observance of the state law and the Mosaic law was 
the sum total of morality ; whereas such laws merely had 
reference to the public welfare, and aimed not so much at 
instructing the Jews as at keeping them under constraint. 
But let us return to our subject, and cite other passages 
of Scripture which set forth temporal benefits as rewards 
for observing the ceremonial law, and blessedness as reward 
for the universal law. 

None of the prophets puts the point more clearly than 
Isaiah. After condemning hypocrisy, he commends liberty 
and charity towards one s self and one s neighbours, and 
promises as a reward : " Then shall thy light break forth 
as the morning, and thy health shall spring forth speedily, 
thy righteousness shall go before thee, and the glory of the 
Lord shall be thy rereward " (chap. Iviii. 8). Shortly after 
wards he commends the Sabbath, and for a due observance 
of it, promises : " Then shalt thou delight thyself in the 
Lord, and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of 
the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy 
father: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it." Thus 
the prophet for liberty bestowed, and charitable works, 
promises a healthy mind in a healthy body, and the glory 
of the Lord even after death; whereas, for ceremonial 
exactitude, he only promises security of rule, prosperity, 
and temporal happiness. 

In Psalms xv. and xxiv. no mention is made of ceremo 
nies, but only of moral doctrines, inasmuch as there is no 
question of anything but blessedness, and blessedness is 
symbolically promised : it is quite certain that the expres 
sions, " the hill of God," and " His tents and the dwellers 
therein," refer to blessedness and security of soul, not to 
the actual mount of Jerusalem and the tabernacle of Moses, 
for these latter were not dwelt in by anyone, and only the 
sons of Levi ministered there. Further, all those sentences 
of Solomon to which I referred in the last chapter, for the 
cultivation of the intellect and wisdom, promise true 


l)lossc(lncss, for by wisdom is the fear of God at length 
understood, and the knowledge of God found. 

That the Jews themselves were not bound to practise 
their ceremonial observances after the destruction of their 
kingdom is evident from Jeremiah. For when the prophet 
saw and foretold that the desolation of the city was at hand, 
he said that God only delights in those who know and un 
derstand that He exercises loving-kindness, judgment, and 
righteousness in the earth, and that such persons only are 
worthy of praise. (Jer. ix. 23.) As though God had said 
that, after the desolation of the city, He would require no 
thing special from the Jews beyond the natural law by 
which all men are bound. 

The New Testament also confirms this view, for only 
moral doctrines are therein taught, and the kingdom of 
heaven is promised as a reward, whereas ceremonial obser 
vances are not touched on by the Apostles, after they began 
to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. The Pharisees cer 
tainly continued to practise these rites after the destruction 
of the kingdom, but more with a view of opposing the 
Christians than of pleasing God: for after the first de 
struction of the city, when they were led captive to Baby 
lon, not being then, so far as I am aware, split up into 
sects, they straightway neglected their rites, bid farewell to 
the Mosaic law, buried their national customs in oblivion 
as being plainly superfluous, and began to mingle witli 
other nations, as we may abundantly learn from Ezra and 
Nehemiah. We cannot, therefore, doubt that they were no 
more bound by the law of Moses, after the destruction of 
their kingdom, than they had been before it had been 
begun, while they were still living among other peoples 
before the exodus from Egypt, and were subject to no 
special law beyond the natural law, and also, doubtless, the 
law of the state in which they were living, in so far as it 
was consonant with the Divine natural law. 

As to the fact that the patriarchs offered sacrifices, I 
think they did so for the purpose of stimulating their piety, 
for their minds had been accustomed from childhood to 
the idea of sacrifice, which we know had been universal 
from the time of Enoch ; and thus they found in sacrifice 
their most powerful incentive. 


The patriarchs, then, did not sacrifice to God at the 
bidding of a Divine right, or as taught by the basis of the 
Divine law, but simply in accordance with the custom of 
the time ; and, if in so doing they followed any ordinance, 
it was simply the ordinance of the country they were living 
in, by which (as we have seen before in the case of Mel- 
chisedek) they were bound. 

I think that I have now given Scriptural authority for 
my view : it remains to show why and how the ceremonial 
observances tended to preserve and confirm the Hebrew 
kingdom; and this I can very briefly do on grounds 
universally accepted. 

The formation of society serves not only for defensive 
purposes, but is also very useful, and, indeed, absolutely 
necessary, as rendering possible the division of labour. If 
men did not render mutual assistance to each other, no one 
would have either the skill or the time to provide for his 
own sustenance and preservation: for all men are not 
equally apt for all work, and no one would be capable of 
preparing all that he individually stood in need of. 
Strength and time, I repeat, would fail, if every one had 
in person to plough, to sow, to reap, to grind corn, to cook, 
to weave, to stitch, and perform tlie other numerous func 
tions required to keep life going ; to say nothing of the arts 
and sciences which are also entirely necessary to the per 
fection and blessedness of human nature. We see that 
peoples living in uncivilized barbarism lead a wretched and 
almost animal life, and even they would not be able to ac 
quire their few rude necessaries without assisting one 
another to a certain extent. 

Now if men were ao constituted by nature that they de 
sired nothing but what is designated by true reason, society 
would obviously have no need of laws : it would be suffi 
cient to inculcate true moral doctrines ; and men would 
freely, without hesitation, act in accordance with their true 
interests. But human nature is framed in a different 
fashion : every one, indeed, seeks his own interest, but does 
not do so in accordance with the dictates of sound reason, 
for most men s ideas of desirability and usefulness are 
guided by their fleshly instincts and emotions, wliich take 
no thought beyond the present and the immediate object. 


Therefore, no society can exist without government, and 
force, and laws to restrain and repress men s desires and 
immoderate impulses. Still human nature will not submit 
to absolute repression. Violent governments, as Seneca 
says, never last long ; the moderate governments endure. 

So long as men act simply from fear they act contrary to 
their inclinations, taking no thoug ht for the advantages or 
necessity of their actions, but simply endeavouring to 
escape punishment or loss of life. They must needs rejoice 
in any evil which befalls their ruler, even if it should in 
volve themselves ; and must long for and bring about such 
evil by every means in their power. Again, men are espe 
cially intolerant of serving and being ruled by their equals. 
Lastly, it is exceedingly difficult to revoke liberties once 

From these considerations it follows, firstly, that autho 
rity should either be vested in the hands of the whole state 
in common, so that everyone should be bound to serve, 
and yet not be in subjection to his equals; or else, if power 
be in the hands of a few, or one man, that one man should 
be something above average humanity, or should strive to 
get himself accepted as such. Secondly, laws should in 
every government be so arranged that people should be 
kept in bounds by the hope of some greatly-desired good, 
rather than by fear, for then everyone will do his duty 

Lastly, as obedience consists in acting at the bidding of 
external authority, it would have no place in a state where 
the government is vested in the whole people, and where 
laws are made by common consent. In such a society the 
people would remain free, whether the laws were added to 
or diminished, inasmuch as it would not be done on exter 
nal authority, but their own free consent. The reverse 
happens when the sovereign power is vested in one man, 
for all act at his bidding ; and, therefore, unless they had 
been trained from the first to depend on the words of 
their ruler, the latter would find it difficult, in case of 
need, to abrogate liberties once conceded, and impose new 

From these universal considerations, let us pass on to the 
kingdom of the Jews. The Jews when they first came out 


of Egypt were not bound by any national laws, and were 
therefore free to ratify any laws they liked, or to make new 
ones, and were at liberty to set up a government and occupy 
a territory wherever they chose. However, they were en 
tirely unfit to frame a wise code of laws and to keep the 
sovereign power vested in the community ; they were all 
uncultivated and sunk in a wretched slavery, therefore the 
sovereignty was bound to remain vested in the hands of 
one man who would rule the rest and keep them under 
constraint, make laws and interpret them. This sove 
reignty was easily retained by Moses, because he surpassed 
the rest in virtue and persuaded the people of the fact, 
proving it by many testimonies (see Exod. chap, xiv., last 
verse, and chap, xix., verse 9). He then, by the Divine virtue 
he possessed, made laws and ordained them for the people, 
taking the greatest care that they should be obeyed willingly 
and not through fear, being specially induced to adopt this 
course by the obstinate nature of the Jews, who would not 
have submitted to be ruled solely by constraint ; and also 
by the imminence of war, for it is always better to inspire 
soldiers with a thirst for glory than to terrify them with 
threats ; each man will then strive to distinguish himself 
by valour and courage, instead of merely trying to escape 
punishment. Moses, therefore, by his virtue and the Divine 
command, introduced a religion, so that the people might 
do their duty from devotion rather than fear. Further, he 
bound them over by benefits, and prophesied many advan 
tages in the future ; nor were his laws very severe, as anyone 
may see for himself, especially if he remarks the number 
of circumstances necessary in order to procure the convic 
tion of an accused person. 

Lastly, in order that the people which could not govern 
itself should be entirely dependent on its ruler, he left 
nothing to the free choice of individuals (who had hitherto 
been slaves) ; the people could do nothing but remember the 
law, and follow the ordinances laid down at the good plea 
sure of their ruler ; they were not allowed to plough, to 
sow, to reap, nor even to eat ; to clothe themselves, to shave, 
to rejoice, or in fact to do anything whatever as they liked, 
but were bound to follow the directions given in the law ; 
and not only this, but they were obliged to have marks on 


their door-posts, on their hands, and between their eyes to 
admonish them to perpetual obedience. 

This, then, was the object of the ceremonial law, that 
men should do nothing of their own free will, but should 
always act under external authority, and should continually 
confess by their actions and thoughts that they were not 
their own masters, but were entirely under the control of 

From all these considerations it is clearer than day that 
ceremonies have nothing to do with a state of blessedness, 
and that those mentioned in the Old Testament, i.e. the 
whole Mosaic Law, had reference merely to the government 
of the Jews, and merely temporal advantages. 

As for the Christian rites, such as baptism, the Lord s 
Supper, festivals, public prayers, and any other observances 
which are, and always have been, common to all Christen 
dom, if they were instituted by Christ or His Apostles 
(which is open to doubt), they were instituted as external 
signs of the universal church, and not as having anything 
to do with blessedness, or possessing any sanctity in them 
selves. Therefore, though such ceremonies were not or 
dained for the sake of upholding a government, they were 
ordained for the preservation of a society, and accordingly he 
who lives alone is not bound by them : nay, those who live 
in a country where the Christian religion is forbidden, are 
bound to abstain from such rites, and can none the less 
live in a state of blessedness. We have an example of this 
in Japan, where the Christian religion is forbidden, and the 
Dutch who live there are enjoined by their East India 
Company not to practise any outward rites of religion. I 
need not cite other examples, though it would be easy to 
prove my point from the fundamental principles of the New 
Testament, and to adduce many confirmatory instances ; 
but I pass on the more willingly, as I am anxious to pro 
ceed to my next proposition. I will now, therefore, pass on 
to what I proposed to treat of in the second part of this 
chapter, namely, what persons are bound to believe in the 
narratives contained in Scripture, and how far they are so 
bound. Examining this question by the aid of natural 
reason, I will proceed as follows. 

If anyone wishes to persuade his fellows for or against 


anything which is not self-evident, he must deduce his con 
tention from their admissions, and convince them either by 
experience or by ratiocination; either by appealing to facts 
of natural experience, or to self-evident intellectual axioms. 
Now unless the experience be of such a kind as to be 
clearly and distinctly understood, though it may convince a 
man, it will not have the same effect on his mind and dis 
perse the clouds of his doubt so completely as when the 
doctrine taught is deduced entirely from intellectual axioms 
that is, by the mere power of the understanding and logical 
order, and this is especially the case in spiritual matters 
which have nothing to do with the senses. 

But the deduction of conclusions from general truths 
a priori, usually requires a long chain of arguments, and, 
moreover, very great caution, acuteness. and self-restraint 
qualities which are not often met with; therefore people 
prefer to be taught by experience rather than deduce their 
conclusion from a few axiom s, and set them out in logical 
order. Whence it follows, that if anyone wishes to teach a 
doctrine to a whole nation (not to speak of the whole human 
race), and to be understood by all men in every particular, 
he will seek to support his teaching with experience, and 
will endeavour to suit his reasonings and the definitions of 
his doctrines as far as possible to the understanding of the 
common people, who form the majority of mankind, and 
he will not set them forth in logical sequence nor adduce the 
definitions which serve to establish them. Otherwise he 
writes only for the learned that is, he will be understood 
by only a small proportion of the human race. 

All Scripture was written primarily for an entire people, 
and secondarily for the whole human race ; therefore its 
contents must necessarily be adapted as far as possible to 
the understanding of the masses, and proved only by ex 
amples drawn from experience. We will explain ourselves 
more clearly. The chief speculative doctrines taught in 
Scripture are the existence of God, or a Being Who made 
all things, and Who directs and sustains the world with 
consummate wisdom ; furthermore, that God takes the 
greatest thought for men, or such of them as live piously 
and honourably, while He punishes, with various penalties, 
those who do evil, separating them from the good. All 


this is proved in Scripture entirely through experience that 
is, through the narratives there related. No definitions of 
doctrine are given, but all the sayings and reasonings are 
adapted to the understanding of the masses. Although 
experience can give no clear knowledge of these tilings, nor 
explain the nature of God, nor how He directs and sustains 
all things, it can nevertheless teach and enlighten men 
sufficiently to impress obedience and devotion on their 

It is now, I think, sufficiently clear what persons are bound 
to believe in the Scripture narratives, and in what degree 
they are so bound, for it evidently follows from what has 
been said that the knowledge of and belief in them is particu 
larly necessary to the masses whose intellect is not capable 
of perceiving things clearly and distinctly. Further, he 
who denies them because he does not believe that God exists 
or takes thought for men and the world, may be accounted 
impious ; but a man who is ignorant of them, and neverthe 
less knows by natural reason that God exists, as we have 
said, and has a true plan of life, is altogether blessed yes, 
more blessed than the common herd of believers, because 
besides true opinions he possesses also a true and distinct 
conception. Lastly, he who is ignorant of the Scriptures 
and knows nothing by the light of reason, though he may 
not be impious or rebellious, is yet less than human and 
almost brutal, having none of God s gifts. 

We must here remark that when we say that the know 
ledge of the sacred narrative is particularly necessary to the 
masses, we do not mean the knowledge of absolutely all the 
narratives in the Bible, but only of the principal ones, those 
which, taken by themselves, plainly display the doctrine we 
have just stated, and have most effect over men s minds. 

If all the narratives in Scripture were necessary for the 
proof of this doctrine, and if no conclusion could be drawn 
without the general consideration of every one of the his 
tories contained in the sacred writings, truly the conclusion 
and demonstration of such doctrine would overtask the 
understanding and strength not only of the masses, but of 
humanity ; who is there who could give attention to all the 
narratives at once, and to all the circumstances, and all the 
scraps of doctrine to be elicited from such a host of diverse 


histories? I cannot believe that the men who have left 
us the Bible as we have it were so abounding in talent that 
they attempted setting about such a method of demonstra 
tion, still less can I suppose that we cannot understand 
Scriptural doctrine till we have given heed to the quarrels of 
Isaac, the advice of Achitophel to Absalom, the civil war 
between Jews and Israelites, and other similar chronicles ; 
nor can I think that it was more difficult to teach such 
doctrine by means of history to the Jews of early times, the 
contemporaries of Moses, than it was to the contemporaries 
of Esdras. But more will be said on this point hereafter, 
we may now only note that the masses are only bound to 
know those histories which can most powerfully dispose 
their mind to obedience and devotion. However, the masses 
are not sufficiently skilled to draw conclusions from what 
they read, they take more delight in the actual stories, and 
in the strange and unlooked-for issues of events than in 
the doctrines implied ; therefore, besides reading these nar 
ratives, they are always in need of pastors or church ministers 
to explain them to their feeble intelligence. 

But not to wander from our point, let us conclude with 
what has been our principal object namely, that the truth 
of narratives, be they what they may, has nothing to do 
with the Divine law, and serves for nothing except in respect 
of doctrine, the sole element which makes one history better 
than another. The narratives in the Old and New Testa 
ments surpass profane history, and differ among themselves 
in merit simply by reason of the salutary doctrines which 
they inculcate. Therefore, if a man were to read the Scrip 
ture narratives believing the* whole of them, but were to 
give no heed to the doctrines they contain, and make no 
amendment in his life, he might employ himself just as 
profitably in reading the Koran or the poetic drama, or or 
dinary chronicles, with the attention usually given to such 
writings ; on the other hand, if a man is absolutely ignorant 
of the Scriptures, and none the less has right opinions and 
a true plan of life, he is absolutely blessed and truly pos 
sesses in himself the spirit of Christ. 

The Jews are of a directly contrary way of thinking, for 
they hold that true opinions and a true plan of life are of 
no service in attaining blessedness, if their possessors have 


arrived at tlicm by the light of reason only, and not liko 
the documents prophetically revealed to Moses. Maimo- 
nides ventures openly to make this assertion : " Every man 
who takes to heart the seven precepts and diligently follows 
them, is counted with the pious among the nations, and an 
heir of the world to come ; that is to say, if he takes to 
heart and follows them because God ordained them in the 
law, and revealed them to us by Moses, because they were 
of aforetime precepts to the sons of Noah: but he who 
follows them as led thereto by reason, is not counted as a 
dweller among the pious, nor among the wise of the nations." 
Such are the words of Maimonides, to which R. Joseph, the 
son of Sliem Job, adds in his book which he calls " Kebod 
Elohim, or God s Glory," that although Aristotle (whom he 
considers to have written the best ethics and to be above 
everyone else) has not omitted anything that concerns true 
ethics, and which he has adopted in his own book, carefully 
following the lines laid down, yet this Avas not able to suffice 
for his salvation, inasmuch as he embraced his doctrines 
in accordance with the dictates of reason and not as Divine 
documents prophetically revealed. 

However, that these are mere figments, and are not sup 
ported by Scriptural authority will, I think, be sufficiently 
evident to the attentive reader, so that an examination of the 
theory will be sufficient for its refutation. It is not my pur 
pose here to refute the assertions of those who assert that 
the natural light of reason can teach nothing of any value 
concerning the true way of salvation. People who lay no 
claims to reason for themselves, are not able to prove by 
reason this their assertion ; and if they hawk about some 
thing superior to reason, it is a mere figment, and far below 
reason, as their general method of life sufficiently shows. 
But there is no need to dwell upon such persons. I will 
merely add that we can only judge of a man by his works. 
If a man abounds in the fruits of the Spirit, charity, joy, 
peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, 
chastity, against which, as Paul says (Gal. v. 22), there is 
no law, such an one, whether he be taught by reason only 
or by the Scripture only, has been in very truth taught by 
Cio<l, and is altogether blessed. Thus have I said all that 
I undertook to say concerning Divine law. 




A S men are accustomed to call Divine the knowledge 
**> which transcends human understanding, so also do 
they style Divine, or the work of God, anything of which 
the cause is not generally known : for the masses think that 
the power and providence of God are most clearly dis 
played by events that are extraordinary and contrary to the 
conception they have formed of nature, especially if such 
events bring them any profit or convenience : they think 
that the clearest possible proof of God s existence is afforded 
when nature, as they suppose, breaks her accustomed order, 
and consequently they believe that those who explain or 
endeavour to understand phenomena or miracles through 
their natural causes are doing away with God and His pro 
vidence. They suppose, forsooth, that God is inactive so 
long^as nature works in her accustomed order, and vice 
versa, that the power of nature and natural causes are idle 
so long as God is acting : thus they imagine two powers 
distinct one from the other, the power of God and the 
power of nature, though the latter is in a sense determined 
by God, or (as most people believe now) created by Him. 
What they mean by either, and what they understand by 
God and nature they do not know, except that they imagine 
the power of God to be like that of some royal potentate, 
and nature s power to consist in force and energy. 

The masses then style unusual phenomena " miracles," 
and partly from piety, partly for the sake of opposing 
the students of science, prefer to remain in ignorance of 
natural causes, and only to hear of those things which they 
know least, and consequently admire most. In fact, the 
common people can only adore God, and refer all things to 
His power by removing natural causes, and conceiving 
things happening out of their due course, and only admires 


the power of God when the power of nature is conceived of 
as in subjection to it. 

This idea seems to have taken its rise among the early 
Jews who saw the Gentiles round them worshipping visible 
gods such as the sun, the moon, the earth, water, air, &c., 
and in order to inspire the conviction that such divinities 
were weak and inconstant, or changeable, told how they 
themselves were under the sway of an invisible God, and 
narrated their miracles, trying further to show that the 
God whom they worshipped arranged the whole of nature 
for their sole benefit : this idea was so pleasing to humanity 
that men go on to this day imagining miracles, so that they 
may believe themselves God s favourites, and the final 
cause for which God created and directs all things. 

What pretension will not people in their folly advance ! 
They have no single sound idea concerning either God or 
nature, they confound God s decrees with human decrees, 
they conceive nature as so limited that they believe man to 
be its chief part! I have spent enough space in setting 
forth these common ideas and prejudices concerning nature 
and miracles, but in order to afford a regular demonstration 
I will show 

I. That nature cannot be contravened, but that she pre 
serves a fixed and immutable order, and at the same time I 
will explain what is meant by a miracle. 

II. That God s nature and existence, and consequently 
His providence cannot be known from miracles, but that 
they can all be much better perceived from the fixed and 
immutable order of nature. 

III. That by the decrees and volitions, and consequently 
the providence of God, Scripture (as I will prove by Scrip 
tural examples) means nothing but nature s order following 
necessarily from her eternal laws. 

IV. Lastly, I will treat of the method of interpreting 
Scriptural miracles, and the chief points to be noted con 
cerning the narratives of them. 

Such are the principal subjects which will be discussed 
in this chapter, and which will serve, I think, not a little to 
further the object of this treatise. 

Our first point is easily proved from what we showed in 
Chap. IV. about Divine law namely, that all that God 


wishes or determines involves eternal necessity and truth, 
for we demonstrated that God s understanding is identical 
with His will, and that it is the same thing to say that 
God wills a thing, as to say that He understands it ; hence, 
as it follows necessarily from the Divine nature and per 
fection that God understands a thing as it is, it follows no 
less necessarily that He wills it as it is. Now, as nothing 
is necessarily true save only by Divine decree, it is plain 
that the universal laws of nature are decrees of God follow 
ing from the necessity and perfection of the Divine nature, 
Hence, any event happening in nature which contravened 
nature s universal laws, would ii^es^sarily also contravene 
the Divine decree, nature, and understating ; or if any 
one asserted that God acts in cont^aventiobsto the laws of 
nature, he, ipso facto, would be comjteUfi^ltc) assert that 
God acted against His own nature an^e^JcTeiit absurdity. 

jOne might easily show from the same pr/mises that the 

j power and efficiency of nature are in theniselves the Divine 
power and efficiency, and that the Divine power is the very 
essence of God, but this I gladly pass over for the present. 
_ Nothing, then, comes to pass in nature l in contraven 
tion to her universal laws, nay, everything agrees with 
them and follows from them, for whatsoever comes to 
pass, conies to pass by the will and eternal decree of God ; 
that is, as we have just pointed out, whatever comes to pass, 
comes to pass according to laws and rules which involve 

, eternal necessity and truth ; nature, therefore, always ob 
serves laws and rules which involve eternal necessity and 
\ truth, although they may not all be known to us, and 
therefore she keeps a fixed and immutable order. Nor is 
there any sound reason for limiting the power and efficacy 

i of nature, and asserting that her laws are fit for certain 
purposes, but not for all ; for as the efficacy and power of 
nature, are the very efficacy and power of God, and as the 
laws and rules of nature are the decrees of God, it is in every 
way to be believed that the power of nature is infinite, and 
that her laws are broad enough to embrace everything con 
ceived by the Divine intellect ; the only alternative is to 
assert that God has created nature so weak, and has 

1 N.B. I do not mean here by " nature," merely matter and its modi 
fications, but infinite other things besides matter. 


ordained for her laws so barren, that He is repeatedly 
compelled to come afresh to her aid if He wishes that she 
should be preserved, and that things should happen as He 
desires : a conclusion, in my opinion, very far removed 
from reason. Further, as nothing happens in nature which 
does not follow from her laws, and as her laws embrace 
everything conceived by the Divine intellect, and lastly, as 
nature preserves a fixed and immutable order ; it most 
clearly follows that miracles are only intelligible as in rela 
tion to human opinions, and merely mean events ef which 
the natural cause cannot be explained by a reference to 
any ordinary occurrence, either by us, or at any rate, by 
the writer and narrator of the miracle. 

We may, in fact, say that a miracle is an event of which 
the causes cannot be explained by the natural reason 
through a reference to ascertained workings of nature; 
but since miracles were wrought according to the under 
standing of the masses, who are wholly ignorant of the 
workings of nature, it is certain that the ancients took for 
a miracle whatever they could not explain by the method 
adopted by the unlearned in such cases, namely, an appeal 
to the memory, a recalling of something similar, which is 
ordinarily regarded without wonder ; for most people think 
they sufficiently understand a thing when they have ceased 
to wonder at it. The ancients, then, and indeed most men 
up to the present day, had no other criterion for a miracle ; 
hence we cannot doubt that many things are narrated in 
Scripture as miracles of which the causes could easily be ex 
plained by reference to ascertained workings of nature. We 
have hinted as much in Chap. II., in speaking of the sun 
standing still in the time of Joshua, and going backwards 
in the time of Ahaz ; but we shall soon have more to say 
on the subject when we come to treat of the interpre 
tation of miracles later on in this chapter. 

It is now time to pass on to the second point, and show 
that we cannot gain an understanding of God s essence, 
existence, or providence by means of miracles, but that 
these truths are much better perceived through the fixed 
and immutable order of nature. 

I thus proceed with the demonstration. As God s exis 
tence is not self-evident, 1 it must necessarily be inferred from 
1 See Note C. 


ideas so firmly and incontrovertible true, that no power can 
be postulated or conceived sufficient to impugn them. They 
ought certainly so to appear to us when we infer from them 
God s existence, if we wish to place our conclusion beyond 
the reach of doubt ; for if we could conceive that such ideas 
could be impugned by any power whatsoever, we should 
doubt of their truth, we should doubt of our conclusion, 
namely, of God s existence, and should never be able to be 
certain of anything. Further, we know that nothing either 
agrees with or is contrary to nature, unless it agrees with 
or is contrary to these primary ideas ; wherefore if we would 
conceive that anything could be done in nature by any 
power whatsoever which would be contrary to the laws of 
nature, it would also be contrary to our primary ideas, and 
we should have either to reject it as absurd, or else to cast 
doubt (as just shown) on our primary ideas, and conse 
quently on the existence of God, and on everything how 
soever perceived. Therefore miracles, in the sense of events 
contrary to the laws of nature, so far from demonstrating 
to us the existence of God, would, on the contrary, lead us 
to doubt it, where, otherwise, we might have been abso 
lutely certain of it, as knowing that nature follows a fixed 
and immutable order. 

Let us take miracle as meaning that which cannot be ex 
plained through natural causes. This may be interpreted 
in two senses : either as that which has natural causes, but 
cannot be examined by the human intellect; or as that 
which has no cause save God and God s will. But as all 
things which come to pass through natural causes, come to 
pass also solely through the will and power of God, it comes 
to this, that a miracle, whether it has natural causes or not, 
is a result which cannot be explained by its cause, that is a 
phenomenon which surpasses human understanding ; but 
from such a phenomenon, and certainly from a result sur 
passing our understanding, we can gain no knowledge. For 
whatsoever we understand clearly and distinctly should be 
plain to us either in itself or by means of something else 
clearly and distinctly understood ; wherefore from a miracle 
or a phenomenon which we cannot understand, we can gain 
no knowledge of God s essence, or existence, or indeed any 
thing about God or nature; whereas when we know that 


all tilings are ordained and ratified by God, that the opera 
tions of nature follow from the essence of God, and that 
the laws of nature are eternal decrees and volitions of God, 
we must perforce conclude that our knowledge of God and 
of God s will increases in proportion to our knowledge and 
clear understanding of nature, as we see how she depends 
on her primal cause, and how she works according to eter 
nal law. Wherefore so far as our understanding goes, 
those phenomena which we clearly and distinctly under 
stand have much better right to be called works of God, 
and to be referred to the will of God than those about 
which we are entirely ignorant, although they appeal power 
fully to the imagination, and compel men s admiration. 

It is only phenomena that we clearly and distinctly under 
stand, which heighten our knowledge of God, and most 
clearly indicate His will and decrees. Plainly, they are 
but triflers who, when they cannot explain a thing, run 
back to the will of God ; this is, truly, a ridiculous way of 
expressing ignorance. Again, even supposing that some 
conclusion could be drawn from miracles, we could not 
possibly infer from them the existence of God : for a 
miracle being an event under limitations is the expression 
of a fixed and limited power ; therefore we could not possibly 
infer from an effect of this kind the existence of a cause 
whose power is infinite, but at the utmost only of a cause 
whose power is greater than that of the said effect. I say 
at the utmost, for a phenomenon may be the result of many 
concurrent causes, and its power may be less than the power 
of the sum of such causes, but far greater than that of any 
one of them taken individually. On the other hand, the 
laws of nature, as we have shown, extend over infinity, and 
are conceived by us as, after a fashion, eternal, and nature 
works in accordance with them in a fixed and immutable 
order ; therefore, such laws indicate to us in a certain degree 
the infinity, the eternity, and the immutability of God. 

We may conclude, then, that we cannot gain knowledge 
of the existence and providence of God by means of mira 
cles, but that we can far better infer them from the fixed 
and immutable order of nature. By miracle, I here mean 
an event which surpasses, or is thought to surpass, human 
comprehension : for in so far as it is supposed to destroy or 


interrupt the order of nature or her laws, it not only can 
give us no knowledge of God, but, contrariwise, takes away 
that which we naturally have, and makes us doubt of God 
and everything else. 

Neither do I recognize any difference between an event 
against the laws of nature and an event beyond the laws of 
nature (that is, according to some, an event which does not 
contravene nature, though she is inadequate to produce or 
effect it) for a miracle is wrought in, and not beyond 
" nature, though it may be said in itself to be above nature, 
and, therefore, must necessarily interrupt the order of 
nature, which otherwise we conceive of as fixed and un 
changeable, according to God s decrees. If, therefore, any 
thing should come to pass in nature which does not follow 
from her laws, it would also be in contravention to the 
order which God has established in nature for ever through 
universal natural laws : it would, therefore, be in contraven 
tion to God s nature and laws, and, consequently, belief in 
it would throw doubt upon everything, and lead to Atheism. 

I think I have now sufficiently established my second 
point, so that we can again conclude that a miracle, whether 
in contravention to, or beyond, nature, is a mere absurdity ; 
and, therefore, that what is meant in Scripture by a miracle 
can only be a work of nature, which surpasses, or is be 
lieved to surpass, human comprehension. Before passing 
on to my third point, I will adduce Scriptural authority for 
my assertion that God cannot be known from miracles. 
Scripture nowhere states the doctrine openly, but it can 
readily be inferred from several passages. Firstly, that in 
which Moses commands (Deut. xiii.) that a false prophet 
should be put to death, even though he work miracles : 
" If there arise a prophet among you, and giveth thee a 
sign or wonder, and the sign or wonder come to pass, say 
ing, Let us go after other gods . . . thou shalt not hearken 
unto the voice of that prophet ; for the Lord your God 
proveth you, and that prophet shall be put to death." 
From this it clearly follows that miracles could be wrought 
even by false prophets ; and that, unless men are honestly 
endowed with the true knowledge and love of God, they 
may be as easily led by miracles to follow false gods as to 
follow the true God ; for these words are added : " For the 


Lord your God tempts you, that He may know whether 
you love Him with all your heart and with all your mind." 

Further, the Israelites, from all their miracles, were un 
able to form a sound conception of God, as their experience 
testified: for when they had persuaded themselves that 
Moses had departed from among them, they petitioned 
Aaron to give them visible gods ; and the idea of God they 
had formed as the result of all their miracles was a calf ! 

Asaph, though he had heard of so many miracles, yet 
doubted of the providence of God, and would have turned 
himself from the true way, if he had not at last come to 
understand true blessedness. (See Ps. Ixxxiii.) Solomon, 
too, at a time when the Jewish nation was at the height of 
its prosperity, suspects that all things happen by chance. 
(See Ecclcs. iii. 19, 20, 21 ; and chap. ix. 2, 3, &c.) 

Lastly, nearly all the prophets found it very hard to re 
concile the order of nature and human affairs with the 
conception they had formed of God s providence, whereas 
philosophers who endeavour to understand things by clear 
conceptions of them, rather than by miracles, have always 
found the task extremely easy at least, such of them as 
place true happiness solely in virtue and peace of mind, 
and who aim at obeying nature, rather than being obeyed 
by her. Such persons rest assured that God directs nature 
according to the requirements of universal laws, not accord 
ing to the requirements of the particular laws of human 
nature, and that, therefore, God s scheme comprehends, not 
only the human race, but the whole of nature. 

It is plain, then, from Scripture itself, that miracles can 
give no knowledge of God, nor clearly teach us the provi 
dence of God. As to the frequent statements in Scripture, 
that God wrought miracles to make Himself plain to man 
as in Exodus x. 2, where He deceived the Egyptians, and 
gave signs of Himself, that the Israelites might know that 
He was God, it does not, therefore, follow that miracles 
really taught this truth, but only that the Jews held 
opinions which laid them easily open to conviction by 
miracles. We have shown in Chap. II. that the reasons as- 
signed by the prophets, or those which are formed from reve 
lation, are not assigned in accordance with ideas universal 
and common to all, but in accordance with the accepted 


doctrines, however absurd, and with the opinions of those 
to whom the revelation was given, or those whom the Holy 
Spirit wished to convince. 

This we have illustrated by many Scriptural instances, 
and can further cite Paul, who to the Greeks was a Greek, 
and to the Jews a Jew. But although these miracles could 
convince the Egyptians and Jews from their standpoint, 
they could not give a true idea and knowledge of God, but 
only cause them to admit that there was a Deity more 
powerful than anything known to them, and that this Deity 
took special care of the Jews, who had just then an unex 
pectedly happy issue of all their affairs. They could not 
teach them that God cares equally for all, for this can be 
taught only by philosophy: the Jews, and all who took 
their knowledge of God s providence from the dissimilarity 
of human conditions of life and the inequalities of fortune, 
persuaded themselves that God loved the Jews above all 
men, though they did not surpass their fellows in true 
human perfection. 

I now go on to my third point, and show from Scripture 
that the decrees and mandates of God, and consequently 
His providence, are merely the order of nature that is, 
when Scripture describes an event as accomplished by God 
or God s will, we must understand merely that it was in 
accordance with the law and order of nature, not, as most 
people believe, that nature had for a season ceased to act, 
or that her order was temporarily interrupted. But Scrip 
ture does not directly teach matters unconnected with its 
doctrine, wherefore it has no care to explain things by their 
natural causes, nor to expound matters merely speculative. 
Wherefore our conclusion must be gathered by inference 
from those Scriptural narratives which happen to be written 
more at length and circumstantially than usual. Of these 
I will cite a few. 

In the first book of Samuel, ix. 15, 16, it is related that 
God revealed to Samuel that He would send Saul to him, 
yet God did not send Saul to Samuel as people are wont 
to send one man to another. His " sending" was merely 
the ordinary course of nature. Saul was looking for the 
asses he had lost, and was meditating a return home with, 
out them, when, at the suggestion of his servant, he went 


to the prophet Samuel, to learn from him where he might 
find them. From no part of the narrative does it appear 
that Saul had any command from God to visit Samuel 
beyond this natural motive. 

In Psalm cv. 24 it is said that God changed the hearts 
of the Egyptians, so that they hated the Israelites. This 
was evidently a natural change, as appears from Exodus, 
chap, i., where we find no slight reason for the Egyptians 
reducing the Israelites to slavery. 

In Genesis ix. 13, God tells Noah that He will set His 
"bow in the cloud ; this action of God s is but another way 
of expressing the refraction and reflection which the rays 
of the sun are subjected to in drops of water. 

In Psalm cxlvii. 18, the natural action and warmth of 
the wind, by which hoar frost and snow are melted, are 
styled the word of the Lord, and in verse 15 wind and 
cold are called the commandment and word of God. 

In Psalm civ. 4, wind and fire are called the angels and 
ministers of God, and various other passages of the same 
sort are found in Scripture, clearly showing that the decree, 
commandment, fiat, and word of God are merely expres 
sions for the action and order of nature. 

Thus it is plain that all the events narrated in Scripture 
came to pass naturally, and are referred directly to God 
because Scripture, as we have shown, does not aim at 
explaining things by their natural causes, but only at 
narrating what appeals to the popular imagination, and 
doing so in the manner best calculated to excite wonder, 
and consequently to impress the minds of the masses with 
devotion. If, therefore, events are found in the Bible 
which we cannot refer to their causes, nay, which seem 
entirely to contradict the order of nature, we must not 
come to a stand, but assuredly believe that whatever did 
really happen happened naturally. This view is confirmed 
by the fact that in the case of every miracle there wero 
many attendant circumstances, though these were not 
always related, especially where the narrative was of a 
poetic character. 

The circumstances of the miracles clearly show, I main 
tain, that natural causes were needed. For instance, in 
order to iiifect the Egyptians with blains, it was necessary 


that Moses should scatter ashes in the air (Exod. ix. 10) ; 
the locusts also came upon the land of Egypt by a com 
mand of God in accordance with nature, namely, by an 
east wind blowing for a whole day and night ; and they 
departed by a very strong west wind (Exod. x. 14, 19). By 
a similar Divine mandate the sea opened a way for the 
Jews (Exod. xiv. 21), namely, by an east wind which blew 
very strongly all night. 

So, too, when Elisha would revive the boy who was 
believed to be dead, he was obliged to bend over him 
several times until the flesh of the child waxed warm, and 
at last he opened his eyes (2 Kings iv. 34, 35). 

Again, in John s Gospel (chap, ix.) certain acts are men 
tioned as performed by Christ preparatory to healing the 
blind man, and there are numerous other instances show 
ing that something further than the absolute fiat of God 
is required for working a miracle. 

Wherefore we may believe that, although the circum 
stances attending miracles are not related always or in 
full detail, yet a miracle was never performed without them. 

This is confirmed by Exodus xiv. 27, where it is simply 
stated that " Moses stretched forth his hand, and the 
waters of the sea returned to their strength in the morn 
ing," no mention being made of a wind ; but in the song 
of Moses (Exod. xv. 10) we read, " Thou didst blow with 
Thy wind (i.e. with a very strong wind), and the sea 
covered them." Thus the attendant circumstance is omitted 
in the history, and the miracle is thereby enhanced. 

But perhaps someone will insist that we find many 
things in Scripture which seem in nowise explicable by 
natural causes, as for instance, that the sins of men and 
their prayers can be the cause of rain and of the earth s 
fertility, or that faith can heal the blind, and so on. But 
I think I have already made sufficient answer: I have 
shown that Scripture does not explain things by their 
secondary causes, but only narrates them in the order and 
the style which has most power to move men, and espe 
cially uneducated men, to devotion ; and therefore it speaks 
inaccurately of God and of events, seeing that its object is 
not to convince the reason, but to attract and lay hold of 
the imagination. If the Bible were to describe the destruc- 


tion of an empire in the style of political historians, the 
masses would remain unstirred, whereas the contrary is the 
case when it adopts the method of poetic description, and 
refers all things immediately to God. When, therefore, the 
Bible says that the earth is barren because of men s sins, 
or that the blind were healed by faith, we ought to take no 
more notice than when it says that God is angry at men s 
sins, that He is sad, that He repents of the good He has 
promised and done ; or that on seeing a sign he remembers 
something He had promised, and other similar expressions, 
which are either thrown out poetically or related according 
to the opinion and prejudices of the writer. 

We may, then, be absolutely certain that every event 
which is truly described in Scripture necessarily happened, 
like everything else, according to natural laws ; and if any 
thing is there set down which can be proved in set terms 
to contravene the order of nature, or not to be deducible 
therefrom, we must believe it to have been foisted into 
the sacred writings by irreligious hands ; for whatsoever is 
contrary to nature is also contrary to reason, and whatsoever 
is contrary to reason is absurd, and, ipso facto, to be 

There remain some points concerning the interpretation 
of miracles to be noted, or rather to be recapitulated, for 
most of them have been already stated. These I proceei 
to discuss in the fourth division of my subject, and I am 
led to do so lest anyone should, by wrongly interpreting a 
miracle, rashly suspect that he has found something in 
Scripture contrary to human reason. 

It is very rare for men to relate an event simply as it 
happened, without adding any element of their own judg 
ment. When they see or hear anything new, they are, 
unless strictly on their guard, so occupied witli their own 
preconceived opinions that they perceive something quite 
different from the plain facts seen or heard, especially if 
such facts surpass the comprehension of the beholder or 
hearer, and, most of all, if he is interested in their happen 
ing in a given way. 

Thus men relate in chronicles and histories their own 
opinions rather than actual events, so that one and the 
earne event is so differently related by two men of different 


opinions, that it seems like two separate occurrences ; and, 
further, it is very easy from historical chronicles to gather 
the personal opinions of the historian. 

I could cite many instances in proof of this from the 
writings both of natural philosophers and historians, but 
I will content myself with one only from Scripture, and 
leave the reader to judge of the rest. 

In the time of Joshua the Hebrews held the ordinary 
opinion that the sun moves with a daily motion, and that 
the earth remains at rest ; to this preconceived opinion they 
adapted the miracle which occurred during their battle with 
the five kings. They did not simply relate that that day 
was longer than usual, but asserted that the sun and moon 
stood still, or ceased from their motion a sta tement which 
would be of great service to them at that time in convinc 
ing and proving by experience to the Gentiles, who wor 
shipped the sun, that the sun was under the control of 
another deity who could compel it to change its daily 
course. Thus, partly through religious motives, partly 
through preconceived opinions, they conceived of and re 
lated the occurrence as something quite different from what 
really happened. 

Thus in order to interpret the Scriptural miracles and 
understand from the narration of them how they really 
happened, it is necessary to know the opinions of those who 
first related them, and have recorded them for us in writing, 
and to distinguish such opinions from the actual impres 
sion made upon their senses, otherwise we shall confound 
opinions and judgments with the actual miracle as it really 
occurred: nay, further, we shall confound actual events 
with symbolical and imaginary ones. For many things are 
narrated in Scripture as real, and were believed to be real, 
which were in fact only symbolical and imaginary. As, 
for instance, that God came down from heaven (Exod. xix. 
28, Deut. v. 28), and that Mount Sinai smoked because 
God descended upon it surrounded with fire ; or, again, 
that Elijah ascended into heaven in a chariot of fire, with 
horses of fire ; all these things were assuredly merely sym 
bols adapted to the opinions of those who have handed 
them down to us as they were represented to them, namely, 
as real. All who have any education know that God has 


no right hand nor left ; that He is not moved nor at rest, 
nor in a particular place, but that He is absolutely infinite 
and contains in Himself all perfections. 

These things, I repeat, are known to whoever judges of 
things by the perception of pure reason, and not according 
as his imagination is affected by his outward senses. Fol 
lowing the example of the masses who imagine a bodily 
Deity, holding a royal court with a throne on the convexity 
of heaven, above the stars, which are believed to be not 
very far off from the earth. 

To tfliese and similar opinions very many narrations in 
Scripture are adapted, and should not, therefore, be mis 
taken by philosophers for realities. 

Lastly, in order to understand, in the case of miracles, 
what actually took place, we ought to be familiar with 
Jewish phrases and metaphors ; anyone who did not make 
sufficient allowance for these, would be continually seeing 
miracles in Scripture where nothing of the kind is intended 
by the writer ; he would thus miss the knowledge not only 
of what actually happened, but also of the mind of the 
writers of the sacred text. For instance, Zechariah speak 
ing of some future war says (chap. xiv. verse 7) : "It shall 
be one day wliich shall be known to the Lord, not day nor 
night ; but at even time it shall be light." In these words 
he seems to predict a great miracle, yet he only means that 
the battle will be doubtful the whole day, that the issue 
will be known only to God, but that in the evening they 
will gain the victory : the prophets frequently used to pre 
dict victories and defeats of the nations in similar phrases. 
Tims Isaiah, describing the destruction of Babylon, says 
(chap, xiii.) : " The stars of heaven, and the constellations 
thereof, shall not give their light ; the sun shall be dar 
kened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause 
her light to shine." Now I suppose no one imagines that 
at the destruction of Babylon these phenomena actually 
occurred any more than that which the prophet adds, 
" For I will make the heavens to tremble, and remove the 
earth out of her place." 

So, too, Isaiah in foretelling to the Jews that they would 
return from Babylon to Jerusalem in safety, and would not 
suffer from tliirst on their journey, says : " And they thirsted 


not when He led them through the deserts ; He caused the 
waters to flow out of the rocks for them; He clave the 
rocks, and the waters gushed out." These words merely 
mean that the Jews, like other people, found springs in the 
desert, at which they quenched their thirst ; for when the 
Jews returned to Jerusalem with the consent of Cyrus, it is 
admitted that no similar miracles befell them. 

In this way many occurrences in the Bible are to be re 
garded merely as Jewish expressions. There is no need 
for me to go through them in detail ; but I will call atten 
tion generally to the fact that the Jews employed such 
phrases not only rhetorically, but also, and indeed chiefly, 
from devotional motives. Such is the reason for the sub 
stitution of " bless God " for " curse God " in 1 Kings xxi. 
10, and Job ii. 9, and for all things being referred to God, 
whence it appears that the Bible seems to relate nothing 
but miracles, even when speaking of the most ordinary oc 
currences, as in the examples given above. 

Hence we must believe that when the Bible says that 
the Lord hardened Pharaoh s heart, it only means that 
Pharaoh was obstinate ; when it says that God opened the 
windows of heaven, it only means that it rained very hard, 
and so on. When we reflect on these peculiarities, and also 
on the fact that most things are related very shortly, with 
very little detail, and almost in abridgments, we shall see 
that there is hardly anything in Scripture which can be 
proved contrary to natural reason, while, on the other 
hand, many things which before seemed obscure, will after 
a little consideration be understood and easily explained. 

I think I have now very clearly explained all that I pro 
posed to explain, but before I finish this chapter I would 
call attention to the fact that I have adopted a different 
method in speaking of miracles to that which I employed 
in treating of prophecy. Of prophecy I have asserted 
nothing which could not be inferred from promises revealed 
in Scripture, whereas in this chapter I have deduced my 
conclusions solely from the principles ascertained by the 
natural light of reason. I have proceeded in this way ad 
visedly, for prophecy, in that it surpasses human know 
ledge, is a purely theological question ; therefore, I knew 
that I could not make any assertions about it, nor learn 


wherein it consists, except through deductions from pre 
mises that have been revealed ; therefore I was compelled 
to collate the history of prophecy, and to draw therefrom 
certain conclusions which would teach me, in so far as such 
teaching is possible, the nature and properties of the gift. 
But in the case of miracles, as our inquiry is a question 
purely philosophical (namely, whether anything can happen 
which contravenes, or does not follow from the laws of 
nature), I was not under any such necessity : I therefore 
thought it wiser to unravel the difficulty through premises 
ascertained and thoroughly known by the natural light of 
reason. I say I thought it wiser, for I could also easily 
have solved the problem merely from the doctrines and 
fundamental principles of Scripture : in order that every 
one may acknowledge this, I will briefly show how it could 
be done. 

Scripture makes the general assertion in several passages 
that nature s course is fixed and unchangeable. In Ps. 
cxlviii. 6, for instance, and Jer. xxxi. 35. The wise man 
also, in Eccles. i. 10, distinctly teaches that " there is no 
thing new under the sun," and in verses 11, 12, illustrating 
the same idea, he adds that although something occasionally 
happens which seems new, it is not really new, but " hath 
been already of old time, which was before us, whereof there 
is no remembrance, neither shall there be any remembrance 
of things that are to come with those that come after." 
Again in chap. iii. 11, he says, " God hath made everything 
beautiful in his time," and immediately afterwards adds, 
" I know that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever ; 
nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it." 

Now all these texts teach most distinctly that nature 
preserves a fixed and unchangeable order, and that God in 
all ages, known and unknown, has been the same ; further, 
that the laws of nature are so perfect, that nothing can be 
added thereto nor taken therefrom ; and, lastly, that miracles 
only appear as something new because of man s ignoranca. 

Such is the express teaching of Scripture : nowhere does 
Scripture assert that anything happens which contradicts, 
or cannot follow from the laws of nature ; and, therefore, 
we should not attribute to it such a doctrine. 

To these considerations we must add, that miracles re- 


quire causes and attendant circumstances, and tliat they 
follow, not from some mysterious royal power which the 
masses attribute to God, but from the Divine rule and de 
cree, that is (as we have shown from Scripture itself) from 
the laws and order of nature ; lastly, that miracles can be 
wrought even by false prophets, as is proved from Deut. xiii. 
and Matt. xxiv. 24. 

The conclusion, then, that is most plainly put before us 
is, that miracles were natural occurrences, and must there 
fore be so explained as to appear neither new (in the words 
of Solomon) nor contrary to nature, but, as far as possible, 
in complete agreement with ordinary events. This can 
easily be done by anyone, now that I have set forth the 
rules drawn from Scripture. Nevertheless, though I main 
tain that Scripture teaches this doctrine, I do not assert 
that it teaches it as a truth necessary to salvation, but only 
that the prophets were in agreement with ourselves on the 
point ; therefore everyone is free to think on the subject as 
he likes, according as he thinks it best for himself, and 
most likely to conduce to the worship of God and to single- 
hearted religion. 

This is also the opinion of Josephus, for at the conclusion 
of the second book of his " Antiquities," he writes : " Let 
no man think this story incredible of the sea s dividing to 
save these people, for we find it in ancient records that 
this hath been seen before, whether by God s extraordinary 
will or by the course of nature it is indifferent. The same 
thing happened one time to the Macedonians, under the 
command of Alexander, when for want of another passage 
the Pamphylian Sea divided to make them way; God s 
Providence making use of Alexander at that time as His 
instrument for destroying the Persian Empire. This is 
attested by all the historians who have pretended to write 
the Life of that Prince. But people are at liberty to think 
what they please." 

Such are the words of Josephus, and such is his opinion 
on faith in miracles. 




\\T HEN people declare, as all are ready to do, that the 
V V Bible is the Word of God teaching man true blessed 
ness and the way of salvation, they evidently do not mean 
what they say ; for the masses take no pains at all to live 
according to Scripture, and we see most people endeavouring 
to hawk about their own commentaries as the word of God, 
and giving their best efforts, under the guise of religion, 
to compelling others to think as they do : we generally see, 
I say, theologians anxious to learn how to wring their in 
ventions and sayings out of the sacred text, and to fortify 
them with Divine authority. Such persons never display 
less scruple or more zeal than when they are interpreting 
Scripture or the mind of the Holy Ghost ; if we ever see 
them perturbed, it is not that they fear to attribute some 
error to the Holy Spirit, and to stray from the right path, 
but that they are afraid to be convicted of error by others, 
and thus to overthrow and bring into contempt their own 
authority. But if men really believed what they verbally 
testify of Scripture, they would adopt quite a different plan 
of life : their minds would not be agitated by so many con 
tentions, nor so many hatreds, and they would cease to be 
excited by such a blind and rash passion for interpreting 
the sacred writings, and excogitating novelties in religion. 
On the contrary, they would not dare to adopt, as the 
teaching of Scripture, anything which they could not plainly 
deduce therefrom : lastly, those sacrilegious persons who 
have dared, in several passages, to interpolate the Bible, 
would have shrunk from so great a crime, and would have 
stayed their sacrilegious hands. 

Ambition and unscrupulousness have waxed so powerful, 
lhat religion is thought to consist, not so much in respect- 


ing the writings of the Holy Grhost, as in defending human 
commentaries, so that religion is 110 longer identified with 
charity, but with spreading discord and propagating insen 
sate hatred disguised under the name of zeal for the Lord, 
and eager ardour. 

To these evils we must add superstition, which teaches 
men to despise reason and nature, and only to admire and 
venerate that which is repugnant to "both : whence it is not 
wonderful that for the sake of increasing the admiration 
and veneration felt for Scripture, men strive to explain it 
so as to make it appear to contradict, as far as possible, 
both one and the other : thus they dream that most pro 
found mysteries lie hid in the Bible, a,nd weary themselves 
out in the investigation of these absurdities, to the neglect 
of what is useful. Every result of their diseased imagina 
tion they attribute to the Holy Ghost, and strive to defend 
with the utmost zeal and passion; for it is an observed 
fact that men employ their reason to defend conclusions 
arrived at by reason, but conclusions arrived at by the 
passions are defended by the passions. 

If we would separate ourselves from the crowd and escape 
from theological prejudices, instead of rashly accepting 
human commentaries for Divine documents, we must con 
sider the true method of interpreting Scripture and dwell 
upon it at some length : for if we remain in ignorance of 
this we cannot know, certainly, what the Bible and the 
Holy Spirit wish to teach. 

I may sum up the matter by saying that the method of 
interpreting Scripture does not widely differ from the 
method of interpreting nature in fact, it is almost, the 
same. For as the interpretation of nature consists in the 
examination of the history of nature, and therefrom de 
ducing definitions of natural phenomena on certain fixed 
axioms, so Scriptural interpretation proceeds by the exami 
nation of Scripture, and inferring the intention of its 
authors as a legitimate conclusion from its fundamental 
principles. By working in this manner everyone will 
always advance without danger of error that is, if they 
admit no principles for interpreting Scripture, and dis 
cussing its contents save such as they find in Scripture 
tself and will be able with equal security to discuss what 


surpasses our understanding, and what is known by the 
natural light of reason. 

In order to make clear that such a method is not only 
correct, but is also the only one advisable, and that it agrees 
with that employed in interpreting nature, I must remark 
that Scripture very often treats of matters wliich cannot 
be deduced from principles known to reason: for it is 
cliiefly made up of narratives and revelation : the narratives 
generally contain miracles that is, as we have shown in the 
last chapter, relations of extraordinary natural occurrences 
adapted to the opinions and judgment of the historians 
who recorded them : the revelations also were adapted to 
the opinions of the prophets, as we showed in Chap. II., 
and in themselves surpassed human comprehension. There 
fore the knowledge of all these that is, of nearly the whole 
, | contents of Scripture, must be sought from Scripture alone, 
even as the knowledge of nature is sought from nature. 
As for the moral doctrines which are also contained in the 
Bible, they may be demonstrated from received axioms, 
but we cannot prove in the same manner that Scripture 
intended to teach them, this can only be learned from Scrip 
ture itself. 

If we would bear unprejudiced witness to the Divine 
origin of Scripture, we must prove solely on its own autho 
rity that it teaches true moral doctrines, for by such means 
alone can its Divine origin be demonstrated : we have shown 
that the certitude of the prophets depended chiefly on their 
having minds turned towards what is just and good, there 
fore we ought to have proof of their possessing this quality 
before we repose faith in them. From miracles God s divinity 
cannot be proved, as I have already shown, and need not 
now repeat, for miracles could be wrought by false prophets. 
Wherefore the Divine origin of Scripture must consist 
solely in its teaching true virtue. But we must come to 
our conclusion simply on Scriptural grounds, for if we 
were unable to do so we could not, unless strongly pre 
judiced, accept the Bible and bear witness to its Divine 

Our knowledge of Scripture must then be looked for in 
Scripture only. 

Lastly, Scripture docs not give us definitions of things 


any more than nature does : therefore, such definitions must 
be sought in the latter case from the diverse workings of 
nature ; in the former case, from the various narratives 
about the given subject which occur in the Bible. 

The universal rule, then, in interpreting Scripture is to 
accept nothing as an authoritative Scriptural statement 
which we do not perceive very clearly when we examine it 
in the light of its history. What I mean by its history, 
and what should be the chief points elucidated, I will now 

The history of a Scriptural statement comprises 

I. The nature and properties of the language in which 
the books of the Bible were written, and in which their 
authors were accustomed to speak. We shall thus be able 
to investigate every expression by comparison with common 
conversational usages. 

Now all the writers both of the Old Testament and the 
New were Hebrews : therefore, a knowledge of the Hebrew 
language is before all things necessary, not only for the 
comprehension of the Old Testament, which was written in 
that tongue, but also of the New : for although the latter 
was published in other languages, yet its characteristics 
are Hebrew. 

II. An analysis of each book and arrangement of its 
contents under heads ; so that we may have at hand the 
various texts which treat of a given subject. Lastly, a note 
of all the passages which are ambiguous or obscure, or 
which seem mutually contradictory. 

I call passages clear or obscure according as their mean 
ing is inferred easily or with difficulty in relation to the 
context, not according as their truth is perceived easily or 
the reverse by reason. We are at work not on the truth of 
passages, but solely on their meaning. We must take 
especial care, when we are in search of the meaning of a 
text, not to be led away by our reason in so far as it is 
founded on principles of natural knowledge (to say nothing 
of prejudices) : in order not to confound the meaning of 
a passage with its truth, we must examine it solely by 
means of the signification of the words, or by a reason 
acknowledging no foundation but Scripture. 

I will illustrate my meaning by an example. The words 


of Moses, " God is a fire " and " God is jealous," are per 
fectly clear so long as we regard merely the signification of 
the words, and I therefore reckon them among the clear 
passages, though in relation to reason and truth they are 
most obscure : still, although the literal meaning is repug 
nant to the natural light of reason, nevertheless, if it cannot 
be clearly overruled on grounds and principles derived 
from its Scriptural " history," it, that is, the literal meaning, 
must be the one retained : and contrariwise if these pas 
sages literally interpreted are found to clash with principles 
derived from Scripture, though such literal interpretation 
were in absolute harmony with reason, they must be inter 
preted in a different manner, i.e. metaphorically. 

If we would know whether Moses believed God to be a 
fire or not, we must on no account decide the question on 
grounds of the reasonableness or the reverse of such an 
opinion, but must judge solely by the other opinions of 
Moses which are on record. 

In the present instance, as Moses says in several other 
passages that God has no likeness to any visible tiling, 
whether in heaven or in earth, or in the water, either all 
such passages must be taken metaphorically, or else the 
one before us must be so explained. However, as we should 
depart as little as possible from the literal sense, we must 
first ask whether this text, God is a fire, admits of any but 
the literal meaning that is, whether the word fire ever 
means anything besides ordinary natural fire. If no such 
second meaning can be found, the text must be taken 
literally, however repugnant to reason it may be : and all 
the other passages, though in complete accordance with 
reason, must be brought into harmony with it. If the 
verbal expressions would not admit of being thus har 
monized, we should have to set them down as irreconcilable, 
and suspend our judgment concerning them. However, as 
we find the name fire applied to anger and jealousy (see 
Job xxxi. 12) we can thus easily reconcile the words of 
Moses, and legitimately conclude "that the two propositions 
God is a fire, and God is jealous, are in meaning identical. 

Further, as Moses clearly teaches that God is jealous, 
and nowhere states that God is without passions or 
emotions, we must evidently infer that Moses held this 


doctrine himself, or at any rate, that he wished to teach it, 
nor must we refrain because such a belief seems contrary 
to reason : for as we have shown, we cannot wrest the 
meaning of texts to suit the dictates of our reason, or our 
preconceived opinions. The whole knowli dge of the Bible 
must be sought solely from itself. 

III. Lastly, such a history should relate he environment 
of all the prophetic books extant ; that :e, the life!, the con 
duct, and the studies of the author of each boak, who he 
was, what was the occasion, and the epoch of his writing 1 , 
whom did he write for, and in what language. Further, it 
should inquire into the fate of each book : how it was first 
received, into whose hands it fell, how many different ver 
sions there were of it, by whose advice was it received into 
the Bible, and, lastly, how all the books now universally 
accepted as sacred, were united into a single whole. 

All such information should, as I have said, be contained 
in the " history " of Scripture. For, in order to know what 
statements are set forth as laws, and what as moral pre 
cepts, it is important to be acquainted with the life, the 
conduct, and the pursuits of their author: moreover, it 
becomes easier to explain a man s writings in proportion as 
we have more intimate knowledge of his genius and tem 

Further, that we may not confound precepts which are 
eternal with those which served only a temporary purpose, 
or were only meant for a few, we should know what was 
the occasion, the time, the age, in which each book was 
written, and to what nation it was addressed. 

Lastly, we should have knowledge on the other points I 
have mentioned, in order to be sure, in addition to the 
authenticity of the work, that it has not been tampered 
with by sacrilegious hands, or whether errors can have 
crept in, and, if so, whether they have been corrected by 
men sufficiently skilled and worthy of credence. All these 
things should be known, that we may not be led away by 
blind impulse to accept whatever is thrust on our notice, 
instead of only that which is sure and indisputable. 

Now, when we are in possession of this history of Scrip 
ture, and have finally decided that we assert nothing as 
prophetic doctrine which does not directly follow from such 


history, or which is not clearly deducible from it, then, I 
say, it will be time to gird ourselves for the task of investi 
gating the mind of the prophets and of the Holy Spirit. 
But in this further arguing, also, we shall require a method 
very like that employed in interpreting nature from her 
history. As in the examination of natural phenomena we 
try first to investigate what is most universal and common 
to all nature such, for instance, as motion and rest, and 
their laws and rules, which nature always observes, and 
through which she continually works and then we proceed 
to what is less universal ; so, too, in the history of Scrip 
ture, we seek first for that which is most universal, and 
serves for the basis and foundation of all Scripture, a doc- 
trine, in fact, that is commended by all the prophets as 
eternal and most profitable to all men. For example, that 
God is one, and that He is omnipotent, that He alone 
should be worshipped, that He has a care for all men, and 
that He especially loves those who adore Him and love 
their neighbour as themselves, &c. These and similar doc 
trines, I repeat, Scripture everywhere so clearly and ex 
pressly teaches, that no one was ever in doubt of its mean 
ing concerning them. 

The nature of God, His manner of regarding and pro 
viding for things, and similar doctrines, Scripture nowhere 
teaches professedly, and as eternal doctrine ; on the con 
trary, we have shown that the prophets themselves did not 
agree on the subject ; therefore, we must not lay down any 
doctrine as Scriptural on such subjects, though it may 
appear perfectly clear on rational grounds. 
^ From a proper knowledge of this universal doctrine of 
Scripture, we must then proceed to other doctrines less 
universal, but which, nevertheless, have regard to the 
general conduct of life, and flow from the universal doc 
trine like rivulets from a source; such are all particular 
external manifestations of true virtue, which need a given 
occasion for their exercise; whatever is obscure or am 
biguous on such points in Scripture must be explained and 
defined by its universal doctrine; with regard to contradic 
tory instances, we must observe the occasion and the time 
in which they were written. For instance, when Christ 
says, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be coin- 


forted," Tv r e do not know, from the actual passage, what 
sort of mourners are meant ; as, however, Christ afterwards 
teaches that we should have care for nothing, save only for 
the kingdom of God and His righteousness, which is com 
mended as the highest good (see Matt. vi. 33), it follows 
that by mourners He only meant those who mourn for the 
kingdom of God and righteousness neglected by man : for 
this would be the only cause of mourning to those who love 
nothing but the Divine kingdom and justice, and who 
evidently despise the gifts of fortune. So, too, when 
Christ says: "But if a man strike you on the right cheek, 
turn to him the left also," and the words which follow. 

If He had given such a command, as a lawgiver, to 
judges, He would thereby have abrogated the law of Moses, 
but this He expressly says He did not do (Matt. v. 17). 
Wherefore we must consider who was the speaker, what 
was the occasion, and to whom were the words addressed. 
Now Christ said that He did not ordain laws as a legislator, 
but inculcated precepts as a teacher : inasmuch as He did 
not aim at correcting outward actions so much as the frame 
of mind. Further, these words were spoken to men who 
were oppressed, who lived in a corrupt commonwealth on 
the brink of ruin, where justice was utterly neglected. The 
very doctrine inculcated here by Christ just before the de 
struction of the city was also taught by Jeremiah before 
the first destruction of Jerusalem, that is, in similar circum 
stances, as we see from Lamentations iii. 25-30. 

Now as such teaching was only set forth by the prophets 
in times of oppression, and was even then never laid down 
as a law ; and as, on the other hand, Moses (who did not 
write in times of oppression, but mark this strove to 
found a well-ordered commonwealth), while condemning 
envy and hatred of one s neighbour, yet ordained that an 
eye should be given for an eye, it follows most clearly from 
these purely Scriptural grounds that this precept of Christ 
and Jeremiah concerning submission to injuries was only 
valid in places where justice is neglected, and in a time of 
oppression, but does not hold good in a well-ordered state. 

In a well-ordered state where justice is administered 
every one is bound, if he would be accounted just, to de 
mand penalties before the judge (see Lev. v. 1), not for the 


Bake of vengeance (Lev. xix. 17, 13), but in order to defend 
justice and his country s laws, and to prevent the wicked 
rejoicing in their wickedness. All this is plainly in accor 
dance with reason. I might cite many other examples in 
the same manner, but I think the foregoing are sufficient 
to explain my meaning and the utility of this method, and 
this is all my present purpose. Hitherto we have only 
shown how to investigate those passages of Scripture which 
treat of practical conduct, and which, therefore, are more 
easily examined, for on such subjects there was never really 
any controversy among the writers of the Bible. 

The purely speculative passages cannot be so easily 
traced to their real meaning : the way becomes narrower, 
for as the prophets differed in matters speculative among 
themselves, and the narratives are in great measure adapted 
to the prejudices of each age, we must not, on any account, 
infer the intention of one prophet from clearer passages in 
the writings of another ; nor must we so explain his mean 
ing, unless it is perfectly plain that the two prophets were 
at one in the matter. 

How we are to arrive at the intention of the prophets in 
such cases I will briefly explain. Here, too, AVC must begin 
from the most universal proposition, inquiring first from 
the most clear Scriptural statements what is the nature of 
prophecy or revelation, and wherein does it consist ; then 
we must proceed to miracles, and so on to whatever is most 
general till we come to the opinions of a particular prophet, 
and, at last, to the meaning of a particular revelation, 
prophecy, history, or miracle. We have already pointed 
out that great caution is necessary not to confound the 
mind of a prophet or historian with the mind of the Holy 
Spirit and the truth of the matter ; therefore I need not 
dwell further on the subject. I would, however, here re 
mark concerning the meaning of revelation, that the present 
method only teaches us what the prophets really saw or 
heard, not what they desired to signify or represent by 
symbols. The latter may be guessed at but cannot be in 
ferred with certainty from Scriptural premises. 

We have thus shown the plan for interpreting Scripture, 
and have, at the same time, demonstrated that it is the one 
luid surest way of investigating its true meaning. I am 


willing indeed to admit that those persons (if any such 
there be) would "be more absolutely certainly right, who 
have received either a trustworthy tradition or an assurance 
from the prophets themselves, such as is claimed by the 
Pharisees ; or who have a pontiff gifted with infallibility in 
the interpretation or Scripture, such as the Roman Catholics 
boast. But as we can never be perfectly sure, either of 
such a tradition or of the authority of the pontiff, we can 
not found any certain conclusion on either : the one is de 
nied by the oldest sect of Christians, the other by the 
oldest sect of Jews. Indeed, if we consider the series of 
years (to mention no other point) accepted by the Pharisees 
from their Rabbis, during which time they say they have 
handed down the tradition from Moses, we shall find that 
it is not correct, as I show elsewhere. Therefore such a 
tradition should be received with extreme suspicion ; and 
although, according to our method, we are bound to con 
sider as uncorrupted the tradition of the Jews, namely, the 
meaning of the Hebrew words which we received from 
them, we may accept the latter while retaining our doubts 
about the former. 

No one has ever been able to change the meaning of a 
word in ordinary use, though many have changed the mean 
ing of a particular sentence. Such a proceeding would be 
most difficult ; for whoever attempted to change the meaning 
of a word, would be compelled, at the same time, to explain 
all the authors who employed it, each according to his tem 
perament and intention, or else, with consummate cunning, 
to falsify them. 

Further, the masses and the learned alike preserve lan 
guage, but it is only the learned who preserve the meaning 
of particular sentences and books : thus, we may easily 
imagine that the learned having a very rare book in their 
power, might change or corrupt the meaning of a sentence 
in it, but they could not alter the signification of the words ; 
moreover, if anyone wanted to change the meaning of a 
common word he would not be able to keep up the change 
among posterity, or in common parlance or writing. 

For these and such-like reasons we may readily conclude 
that it would never enter into the mind of anyone to 
corrupt a language, though the intention of a writer may 


often heave "been falsified by changing his phrases or inter 
preting them amiss. As then our method (based on the 
principle that the knowledge of Scripture must be sought 
from itself alone) is the sole true one, we must evidently 
renounce any knowledge which it cannot furnish for the 
complete understanding of Scripture. I will now point out 
its difficulties and shortcomings, which prevent our gaining 
a complete and assured knowlege of the Sacred Text. 

Its first great difficulty consists in its requiring a 
thorough knowledge of the Hebrew language. Where is 
such knowledge to be obtained? The men of old who 
employed the Hebrew tongue have left none of the prin 
ciples and bases of their language to posterity ; we have 
from them absolutely nothing in the way of dictionary, 
grammar, or rhetoric. 

Now the Hebrew nation has lost all its grace and beauty 
(as one would expect after the defeats and persecutions it 
has gone through), and has only retained certain fragments 
of its language and of a few books. Nearly all the names 
of fruits, birds, and fishes, and many other words have 
perished in the wear and tear of time. Further, the mean 
ing of many nouns and verbs which occur in the Bible are 
either utterly lost, or are subjects of dispute. And not 
only are these gone, but we are lacking in a knowledge of 
Hebrew phraseology. The devouring tooth of time has de 
stroyed nearly all the phrases and turns of expression 
peculiar to the Hebrews, so that we know them no more. 
Therefore we cannot investigate as we would all the mean 
ings of a sentence by the uses of the language ; and there 
are many phrases of which the meaning is most obscure or 
altogether inexplicable, though the component words are 
perfectly plain. 

To this impossibility of tracing the history of the Hebrew 
language must be added its particular nature and compo 
sition : these give rise to so many ambiguities that it is im 
possible to find a method which would enal le us to gain a 
certain knowledge of all the statements in Scripture. 1 In 
addition to the sources of ambiguities common to all lan 
guages, there are many peculiar to Hebrew. These, I think, 
it worth while to mention. 

Firstly, an ambiguity often arises in the Bible from our 
S;e Note 7. 


mistaking one letter for another similar one. The Hebrews 
divide the letters of the alphabet into five classes, according 
to the five organs of the mouth employed in pronouncing 
them, namely, the lips, the tongue, the teeth, the palate, 
and the throat, For instance, Alpha, Ghet, Hgain, He, are 
called gutturals, and are barely distinguishable, by any sign 
that we know, one from the other. El, which signifies to, 
is often taken for hgal, which signifies above, and vice versa. 
Hence sentences are often rendered rather ambiguous or 

A second difficulty arises from the multiplied meaning 
of conjunctions and adverbs. For instance, vau serves 
promiscuously for a particle of union or of separation, mean 
ing, and, but, because, hoivever, then : lei, has seven or eight 
meanings, namelv, wherefore, although, if, when, inasmuch 
as, because, a burning, &c., and so on with almost all 

The third very fertile source of doubt is the fact that 
Hebrew verbs in the indicative mood lack the present, the 
past imperfect, the pluperfect, the future perfect, and other 
tenses most frequently employed in other languages ; in the 
imperative and infinitive moods they are wanting in all ex 
cept the present, and a subjunctive mood does not exist. 
Now, although all these defects in moods and tenses may 
be supplied by certain fundamental rules of the language 
with ease and even elegance, the ancient writers evidently 
neglected such rules altogether, and employed indifferently 
future for present and past, and vice versa past for future, 
and also indicative for imperative and subjunctive, with the 
result of considerable confusion. 

Besides these sources of ambiguity there are two others, 
one very important. Firstly, there are in Hebrew no 
vowels ; secondly, the sentences are not separated by any 
marks elucidating the meaning or separating the clauses. 
Though the want of these two has generally been supplied 
by points and accents, such substitutes cannot be accepted 
by us, inasmuch as they were invented and designed by 
men of an after age whose authority should carry no 
weight. The ancients wrote without points (that is, with 
out vowels and accents), as is abundantly testified ; their 
descendants added what was lacking, according to their own 


ideas of Scriptural interpretation ; wherefore the existing 
accents and points are simply current interpretations, and 
are no more authoritative than any other commentaries. 

Those who are ignorant of this fact cannot justify the 
author of the Epistle to the Hebrews for interpreting 
(chap. xi. 21) Genesis (xlvii. 31) very differently from the 
version given in our Hebrew text as at present pointed, 
as though the Apostle had been obliged to learn the mean 
ing of Scripture from those who added the points. In my 
opinion the latter are clearly wrong. In order that every 
one may judge for himself, and also see how the discre 
pancy arose simply from the want of vowels, I will give 
both interpretations. Those who pointed our version read, 
" And Israel bent himself over, or (changing Hgain into 
Aleph, a similar letter) towards, the head of the bed." The 
author of the Epistle reads, " And Israel bent himself over 
the head of his staff," substituting mate for wita, from 
which it only differs in respect of vowels. Now as in this 
narrative it is Jacob s age only that is in question, and not 
his illness, which is not touched on till the next chapter, 
it seems more likely that the historian intended to say 
that Jacob bent over the head of his staff (a thing com 
monly used by men of advanced age for their support) 
than that he bowed himself at the head of his bed, espe 
cially as for the former reading no substitution of letters 
is required. In this example I have desired not only to 
reconcile the passage in the Epistle with the passage in 
Genesis, but also and chiefly to illustrate how little trust 
should be placed in the points and accents which are found 
in our present Bible, and so to prove that he who would 
be without bias in interpreting Scripture should hesitate 
about accepting them, and inquire afresh for himself. 
Such being the nature and structure of the Hebrew lan 
guage, one may easily understand that many difficulties 
are likely to arise, and that no possible method could solve 
all of them. It is useless to hope for a way out of our 
difficulties in the comparison of various parallel passages 
(we have shown that the only method of discovering the 
true sense of a passage out of many alternative ones is to 
see what an; the usages of the language), for this com 
parison of parallel passages can only accidentally throw 


light on a difficult point, seeing that the prophets never 
wrote with the express object of explaining their own 
phrases or those of other people, and also because we 
cannot infer the meaning of one prophet or apostle by the 
meaning of another, unless on a purely practical question, 
not when the matter is speculative, or if a miracle, or his 
tory is being narrated. I might illustrate my point with in 
stances, for there are many inexplicable phrases in Scrip 
ture, but I would rather pass on to consider the difficulties 
and imperfections of the method under discussion. 

A further difficulty attends the method, from the fact 
that it requires the history of all that has happened to 
every book in the Bible ; such a history we are often quite 
unable to furnish. Of the authors, or (if the expression 
be preferred), the writers of many of the books, we are 
either in complete ignorance, or at any rate in doubt, as I 
will point out at length. Further, we do not know either 
the occasions or the epochs when these books of unknown 
authorship were written; we cannot say into what hands 
they fell, nor how the numerous varying versions origi 
nated ; nor, lastly, whether there were not other versions, 
now lost. I have briefly shown that such knowledge is 
necessary, but I passed over certain considerations which I 
will now draw attention to. 

If we read a book which contains incredible or impos 
sible narratives, or is written in a very obscure style, and 
if we know nothing of its author, nor of the time or occa 
sion of its being written, we shall vainly endeavour to 
gain any certain knowledge of its true meaning. For being 
in ignorance on these points we cannot possibly know the 
aim or intended aim of the author ; if we are fully in 
formed, we so order our thoughts as not to be in any way 
prejudiced either in ascribing to the author or him for 
whom the author wrote either more or less than his mean 
ing, and we only take into consideration what the author 
may have had in his mind, or w T hat the time and occasion 
demanded. I think this must be tolerably evident to all. 

It often happens that in different books we read his 
tories in themselves similar, but which we judge very 
differently, according to the opinions we have formed of 
the authors. I remember once to have read in sonic book 


that a man named Orlando Furioso used to drive a kind of 
winged monster through the air, fly over any countries he 
liked, kill unaided vast numbers of men and giants, and 
jucli like fancies, which from the point of view of reason 
are obviously absurd. A very similar story I read in Ovid 
of Perseus, and also in the books of Judges and Kings ot 
Samson, who alone and unarmed killed thousands of men, 
and of Elijah, who flew through the air, and at last went 
up to heaven in a chariot of fire, with horses of fire. All 
these stories are obviously alike, but we judge them very 
differently. The first only sought to amuse, the second had 
a political object, the third a religious object. We gather 
this simply from the opinions we had previously formed of 
the authors. Thus it is evidently necessary to know some- 
tiling of the authors of writings which are obscure or un- 
intelligible, if we would interpret their meaning; and for 
the same reason, in order to choose the proper reading from 
among a great variety, we ought to have information as to 
the versions in which the differences are found, and as to 
tfie possibility of other readings having been discovered by 
persons of greater authority. 

A further difficulty attends this method in the case of 
some of the books of Scripture, namely, that they are no 
longer extant in their original language. The Gospel 
according to Matthew, and certainly the Epistle to the 
Hebrews, were written, it is thought, in Hebrew, though 
thev no longer exist in that form. Aben Ezra affirms in 
his "commentaries that the book of Job was translated into 
Hebrew out of another language, and that its obscurity 
arises from this fact. I say nothing of the apocryphal 
books, for their authority stands on very inferior ground. 

The foregoing difficulties in this method of interpreting 
Scripture from its own history, I conceive to be so great 
that I do not hesitate to say that the true meaning of 
Scripture is in many places inexplicable, or at best mere 
subject for guesswork ; but I must again point out, on the 
other hand, that such difficulties only arise when we en 
deavour to follow the meaning of a prophet in matters 
which cannot be perceived, but only imagined, not in things, 
whereof the understanding can give a clear and distinct idea, 
and which are conceivable through themselves: 1 matters 
1 See Note 8. 


which by their nature are easily perceived cannot be ex 
pressed so obscurely as to be unintelligible ; as the proverb 
says, " a word is enough to the wise." Euclid, who only 
wrote of matters very simple and easily understood, can 
easily bo comprehended by anyone in any language ; we can 
follow his intention perfectly, and be certain of his true 
meaning, without having a thorough knowledge of the lan 
guage in which he wrote ; in fact, a quite rudimentary ac 
quaintance is sufficient. We need make no researches con 
cerning the life, the pursuits, or the habits of the author ; 
nor need we inquire in what language, nor when he wrote, 
nor the vicissitudes of his book, nor its various readings, 
nor how, nor by whose advice it has been received. 

What we here say of Euclid might equally be said of any 
book which treats of things by their nature perceptible : 
thus we conclude that we can easily follow the intention of 
Scripture in moral questions, from the history we possess 
of it, and we can be sure of its true meaning. 

The precepts of true piety are expressed in very ordinary 
language, and are equally simple and easily understood. 
Further, as true salvation and blessedness consist in a 
true assent of the soul and we truly assent only to 
what we clearly understand it is most plain that we can 
follow with certainty the intention of Scripture in matters 
relating to salvation and necessary to blessedness ; there 
fore, we need not be much troubled about what remains : 
such matters, inasmuch as we generally cannot grasp them 
with our reason and understanding, are more curious than 

I think I have now set forth the true method of Scrip 
tural interpretation, and have sufficiently explained my 
own opinion thereon. Besides, I do not doubt that every 
one will see that such a method only requires the aid of 
natural reason. The nature and efficacy of the natural 
reason consists in deducing and proving the unknown from 
the known, or in carrying premises to their legitimate con 
clusions; and these are the very processes which our 
method desiderates. Though we must admit that it does 
not suffice to explain everything in the Bible, such imper 
fection does not spring from its own nature, but from the 
fact that the path which it teaches us, as the true one, hay 



never been tended or trodden by men, and has thus, by the 
lapse of time, become very difficult, and almost impass 
able, as, indeed, I have shown in the difficulties I draw 
attention to. 

There only remains to examine the opinions of those who 
differ from me. 

The first winch comes under our notice is, that the light 
of nature has no power to interpret Scripture, but that a 
supernatural faculty is required for the task. What is 
meant by this supernatural faculty I will leave to its pro- 
pounders to explain. Personally, I can only suppose that 
they have adopted a very obscure way of stating their com 
plete uncertainty about the true meaning of Scripture. If 
we look at their interpretations, they contain nothing 
supernatural, at least nothing but the merest conjectures. 

Let them be placed side by side with the interpretations 
of those who frankly confess that they have no faculty 
beyond their natural ones ; we shall see that the two are 
just alike both human, both long pondered over, both 
laboriously invented. To say that the natural reason is in 
sufficient for such results is plainly untrue, firstly, for the 
reasons above stated, namely, that the difficulty of inter 
preting Scripture arises from no defect in human reason, 
but simply from the carelessness (not to say malice) of men 
who neglected the history of the Bible while there were 
still materials for inquiry ; secondly, from the fact (ad 
mitted, I think, by all) that the supernatural faculty is a 
Divine gift granted only to the faithful. But the prophets 
and apostles did not preach to the faithful only, but chiefly 
to the unfaithful and wicked. Such persons, therefore, were 
able to understand the intention of the prophets and 
apostles, otherwise tin; prophets and apostles would have 
sremed to be preaching to little boys and infants, not to 
men endowed with reason. Moses, too, would have given 
his laws in vain, if they could only be comprehended by the 
faithful, who need no law. Indeed, those who demand 
supernatural faculties for comprehending the meaning of 
the prophets and apostles seem truly lacking in natural 
j, so that we should hardly suppose such persons the 

s of a Divine supernatural gift, 
opinion of Maimoiudes was widely Jiffi-mit. He 


asserted that each passage in Scripture admits of various, 
nay, contrary, meanings ; but that we could never be cer 
tain of any particular one till we knew that the passage, as 
we interpreted it, contained nothing contrary or repugnant 
to reason. If the literal meaning clashes with reason, 
though the passage seems in itself perfectly clear, it must 
be interpreted in some metaphorical sense. This doctrine 
he lays down very plainly in chap. xxv. part ii. of his book, 
" More Nebuchim," for he says : " Know that we shrink 
not from affirming that the world hath existed from eter 
nity, because of what Scripture saith concerning the world s 
creation. For the texts which teach that the world was 
created are not more in number than those which teach 
that God hath a body ; neither are the approaches in this 
matter of the world s creation closed, or even made hard to 
us : so that we should not be able to explain what is 
written, as we did when we showed that God hath no body, 
nay, peradventure, we could explain and make fast the doc 
trine of the world s eternity more easily than we did away 
with the doctrines that God hath a beatified body. Yet 
two things hinder me from doing as I have said, and 
believing that the world is eternal. As it hath been 
clearly shown that God hath not a body, we must per 
force explain all those passages whereof the literal sense 
agreeth not with the demonstration, for sure it is that they 
can be so explained. But the eternity of the world hath 
not been so demonstrated, therefore it is not necessary to do 
violence to Scripture in support of some common opinion, 
whereof we might, at the bidding of reason, embrace the 

Such are the words of Maimoiiides, and they are evidently 
sufficient to establish our point : for if he had been con 
vinced by reason that the world is eternal, he would not 
have hesitated to twist and explain away the words of 
Scripture till he made them appear to teach this doc- 
trine. He would have felt quite sure that Scripture, though 
everywhere plainly denying the eternity of the world, really 
intends to teach it. So that, however clear the meaning of 
Scripture may be, he would not feel certain of having 
grasped it, so long as he remained doubtful of the truth of 
what was written. For we arc in doubt whether a thine: is 


in conformity with reason, or contrary thereto, so long as 
we are uncertain of its truth, and, consequently, we cannot 
be sure whether the literal meaning of a passage be true or 

If such a theory as this were sound, I would certainly 
grant that some faculty beyond the natural reason is re 
quired for interpreting Scripture. For nearly all things 
that we find in Scripture cannot be inferred from known 
principles of the natural reason, and, therefore, we should 
be unable to come to any conclusion about their truth, or 
about the real meaning and intention of Scripture, but 
should stand in need of some further assistance. 

Further, the truth of this theory would involve that the 
masses, having generally no comprehension of, nor leisure 
for, detailed proofs, would be reduced to receiving all their 
knowledge of Scripture on the authority and testimony of 
philosophers, and, consequently, would be compelled to 
suppose that the interpretations given by philosophers were 

Truly this would be a new form of ecclesiastical autho 
rity, and a new sort of priests or pontiffs, more likely to 
excite men s ridicule than their veneration. Certainly 
our method demands a knowledge of Hebrew for which the 
masses have no leisure ; but no such objection as the fore 
going can be brought against us. For the ordinary Jews 
or Gentiles, to whom the prophets and apostles preached 
and wrote, understood the language, and, consequently, tho 
intention of the prophet or apostle addressing them ; but 
they did not grasp the intrinsic reason of what was preached, 
which, according to Maimonides, would be necessary for au 
understanding of it. 

There is nothing, then, in our method which renders it 
necessary that the masses should follow the testimony of 
commentators, for I point to a set of unlearned people who 
understood the language of the prophets and apostles; 
whereas Maimonides could not point to any such who 
could arrive at the prophetic or apostolic meaning through 
their knowledge of the causes of tilings. 

As to the multitude of our own time, we have bhowii 
that whatsoever is necessary to salvation, though its reasons 
may be unknown, can easily be understood in any language, 


because it is thoroughly ordinary and usual ; it is in such 
understanding as this that the masses acquiesce, not in the 
testimony of commentators ; with regard to other questions, 
the ignorant and the learned fare alike. 

But let us return to the opinion of Maimonides, and exa 
mine it more closely. In the first place, he supposes that the 
prophets were in entire agreement one with another, and 
that they were consummate philosophers and theologians ; 
for he would have them to have based their conclusions on 
the absolute truth. Further, he supposes that the sense of 
Scripture cannot be made plain from Scripture itself, for 
the truth of things is not made plain therein (in that it 
does not prove any thing, nor teach the matters of which 
it speaks through their definitions and first causes), there 
fore, according to Maimonides, the true sense of Scripture 
cannot be made plain from itself, and must not be there 

The falsity of such a doctrine is shown in this very chap 
ter, for we have shown both by reason and examples that 
the meaning of Scripture is only made plain through Scrip 
ture itself, and even in questions deducible from ordinary 
knowledge should be looked for from no other source. 

Lastly, such a theory supposes that we may explain the 
words of Scripture according to our preconceived opinions, 
twisting them about, and reversing or completely changing 
the literal sense, however plain it may be. Such licence is 
utterly opposed to the teaching of this and the preceding 
chapters, and, moreover, will be evident to everyone as rash 
and excessive. 

But if we grant all this licence, what can it effect after 
all ? Absolutely nothing. Those things which cannot be 
demonstrated, and which make up the greater part of 
Scripture, cannot be examined by reason, and cannot there 
fore be explained or interpreted by this rule ; whereas, on 
the contrary, by following our own method, we can explain 
many questions of this nature, and discuss them on a sure 
basis, as we have already shown, by reason and example. 
Those matters which are by their nature comprehensible 
we can easily explain, as has been pointed out, simply by 
means of the context. 

Therefore, the method of Maimonides is clearly useless : 


to which we may add, that it does away with all the cer 
tainty which the masses acquire by candid reading, or 
which is gained by any other persons irx any other way. 
In conclusion, then, we dismiss Maimonides theory as 
harmful, useless, and absurd. 

As to the tradition of the Pharisees, we have already 
shown that it is not consistent, while the authority of the 
popes of Rome stands in need of more credible evidence ; 
the latter, indeed, I reject simply on this ground, for if the 
popes could point out to us the meaning of Scripture as 
surely as did the high priests of the Jews, I should not be 
deterred by the fact that there have been heretic and im 
pious Eoman pontiffs ; for among the Hebrew high-priests 
of old there were also heretics and impious men who gained 
the high-priesthood by improper means, but who, neverthe 
less, had Scriptural sanction for their supreme power of in 
terpreting the law. (See Deut. xvii. 11, 12, and xxxiii. 10, 
also Malachi ii. 8.) 

However, as the popes can show no such sanction, their 
authority remains open to very grave doubt, nor should any 
one be deceived by the example of the Jewish high-priests 
and think that the Catholic religion also stands in need of 
a pontiff ; he should bear in mind that the laws of Moses 
being also the ordinary laws of the country, necessarily re 
quired some public authority to insure their observance ; 
for, if everyone were free to interpret the laws of his coun 
try as he pleased, no state could stand, but would for that 
very reason be dissolved at once, and public rights would 
become private rights. 

"With religion the case is widely different. Inasmuch as it 
consists not so much in outward actions as in simplicity 
and truth of character, it stands outside the sphere of law 
and public authority. Simplicity and truth of character aro 
not produced by the constraint of laws, nor by the autho 
rity of the state, no one the whole world over can be forced 
or legislated into a state of blessedness ; the means re 
quired for such a consummation are faithful and brotherly 
admonition, sound education, and, above all, free use of the 
individual judgment. 

Therefore, as the supreme right of free thinking, even on 
religion, is in every man s power, and as it is inconceivable 


that such power could "be alienated, it is also in every man s . 
power to wield the supreme right and authority of free ^ 
judgment in this behalf, and to explain and interpret re 
ligion for himself. The only reason for vesting the supreme 
authority in the interpretation of law, and judgment on 
public affairs in the hands of the magistrates, is that it 
concerns questions of public right. Similarly the supreme 
authority in explaining religion, and in passing judgment 
thereon, is lodged with the individual because it concerns 
questions of individual right. So far, then, from the autho 
rity of the Hebrew high-priests telling in confirmation of 
the authority of the Eoman pontiffs to interpret religion, 
it would rather tend to establish individual freedom of 
judgment. Thus in this way also, we have shown that our 
method of interpreting Scripture is the best. For as the 
highest power of Scriptural interpretation belongs to every 
man, the rule for such interpretation should be nothing but 
the natural light of reason which is common to all not 
any supernatural light nor any external authority ; more 
over, such a rule ought not to be so difficult that it can 
only be applied by very skilful philosophers, but should be 
adapted to the natural and ordinary faculties and capacity 
of mankind. And such I have shown our method to be, 
for such difficulties as it has arise from men s carelessness, 
and are no part of its native. 




the former chapter we treated of the foundations and 
principles of Scriptural knowledge, and showed that 
it consists solely in a trustworthy history of the sacred 
writings ; such a history, in spite of its indispensability, 
the ancients neglected, or at any rate, whatever they may 
have written or handed down has perished in the lapse of 
time, consequently the groundwork for such an investiga 
tion is to a great extent, cut from under us. This might 
be put up with if succeeding generations had confined 
themselves within the limits of truth, and had handed 
down conscientiously what few particulars they had re 
ceived or discovered without any additions from their own 
brains : as it is, the history of the Bible is not so much 
imperfect as untrustworthy : the foundations are not only 
too scanty for building upon, but arc also unsound. It is 
part of my purpose to remedy these defects, and to remove 
common theological prejudices. But I fear that I am 
attempting my task too late, for men have arrived at the pitch 
of not suffering contradiction, but defending obstinately 
whatever they have adopted under the name of religion. 
So widely have these prejudices taken possession of men s 
minds, that very few, comparatively speaking, will listen to 
reason. However, I will make the attempt, and spare 110 
efforts, for there is no positive reason for despairing of 

In order to treat the subject methodically, I will begin 
with the received opinions concerning the true authors of 
the sacred books, and in the first place, speak of the author 
of the Pentateuch, who is almost universally supposed to 
Lave been Moses. The Pharisees are so firmly convinced 
of his identity, that they account as a heretic anyone who 
differs from them on the subject. Wherefore, Aben Ezra, 


a man of enlightened intelligence, and no small learning, 
who was the first, so far as I know, to treat of this opinion, 
dared not express his meaning openly, but confined him 
self to dark hints which I shall not scruple to elucidate, 
thus throwing full light on the subject. 

The words of Abeii Ezra which occur in his commentary 
on Deuteronomy are as follows: "Beyond Jordan, &c. 
.... If so be that thou understandest the mystery of the 

twelve .... moreover Moses wrote the law The 

Canaanite was then in the land .... it shall be revealed 
on the mount of God .... then also behold his bed, his 
iron bed, then shalt thou know the truth." In these few 
words he hints, and also shows that it was not Moses who 
wrote the Pentateuch, but someone who lived long after 
him, and further, that the book which Moses wrote was 
something different from any now extant. 

To prove this, I say, he draws attention to the facts 

I. That the preface to Deuteronomy could not have 
been written by Moses, inasmuch as he had never crossed 
the Jordan. 

H. That the whole book of Moses was written at full 
length on the circumference of a single altar (Deut. xxvii. and 
Josh vm.37), whichaltar, according to the Eabbis, consisted 
ot only twelve stones : therefore the book of Moses must 
have been of far less extent than the Pentateuch. This is 
what our author means, I think, by the mystery of the 
twelve, unless he is referring to the twelve curses contained 
m the chapter of Deuteronomy above cited, which he 
thought could not have been contained in the law, because 
Moses bade the Levites read them after the recital of the 
jaw, and so bind the people to its observance. Or again, 
he may have had in his mind the last chapter of Deutero 
nomy whiph treats of the death of Moses, and which con- 
tains twelve verses. But there is no need to dwell further 
on these and similar conjectures. 

HI. That in Deut. xxxi. 9, the expression occurs, "and 
Moses wrote the law:" words that cannot be ascribed to 
Moses, but must be those of some other writer narratin^ 
the deeds and writings of Moses. 

IV. That in Genesis xii. 6, the historian, after narratina 
that Abraham journeyed through the land of Canaan, adds" 


"and the Canaanite was then in the land," thus clearly ex 
cluding the time at which he wrote. So that this passage 
must have been written after the death of Moses, when the 
Canaanites had been driven out, and no longer possessed 
the land. 

Aben Ezra, in his commentary on the passage, alludes to 
the difficulty as follows: "And the Canaanite was then 
in the land : it appears that Canaan, the grandson of Noah, 
took from another the land which bears his name ; if this be 
not the true meaning, there lurks some mystery in the pas 
sage, and let him who understands it keep silence." That 
is, if Canaan invaded those regions, the sense will be, the 
Canaanite was then in the land, in contradistinction to the 
time when it had been held by another : but if, as follows 
from Gen. chap. x. Canaan was the first to inhabit the land, 
the text must mean to exclude the time present, that is the 
time at which it was written ; therefore it cannot be the 
work of Moses, in whose time the Canaanites still possessed 
those territories : this is the mystery concerning which 
silence is recommended. 

V. That in Genesis xxii. 14 Mount Moriah is called 
the mount of God, 1 a name which it did not acquire till after 
the building of the Temple ; the choice of the mountain 
was not made in the time of Moses, for Moses does not 
point out any spot as chosen by God ; on the contrary, he 
foretells that God will at some future time choose a spot 
to which his name will be given. 

VI. Lastly, that in Deut. chap, iii., in the passage re 
lating to Og, king of Bashan, these words are inserted: 
" For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of 
giants : behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron : is it 
not in Eabbath of the children of Ammon ? nine cubits 
was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, 
after the cubit of a man." This parenthesis mjost plainly 
shows that its writer lived long after Moses ; for this 
mode of speaking is only employed by one treating of 
things long past, and pointing to relics for the sake of 
gaining credence : moreover, this bed was almost certainly 
first discovered by David, who conquered the city of 
Kabbath (2 Sam. xii. 30.) Again, the historian a little 
further on inserts after the words of Moses, " Jair, the son 

1 S-e Note 9. 


of Manasseh, took all the country of Argob unto the coasts 
of G-eshuri and Maachathi ; and called them after his own 
name, Bashan-havoth-jair, unto this day." This passage, 
I say, is inserted to explain the words of Moses which pre 
cede it. " And the rest of Gilead, and all Baslian, being 
the kingdom of Og, gave I unto the half tribe of Manasseh ; 
all the region of Argob, with all Bashan, which is called 
the land of the giants." The Hebrews in the time of the 
writer indisputably knew what territories belonged to the 
tribe of Judah, but did not know them under the name of 
the jurisdiction of Argob, or the land of the giants. There 
fore the^ writer is compelled to explain what these places 
were which were anciently so styled, and at the same time 
to point out why they were at the time of his writing 
known by the name of Jair, who was of the tribe of 
Manasseh, not of Judah. We have thus made clear the 
meaning of Aben Ezra and also the passages of the Penta 
teuch which he cites in proof of his contention. However, 
Aben Ezra does not call attention to every instance, or 
even the chief ones; there remain many of greater im 
portance, which may be cited. Namely (I.), that the writer 
of the books in question not only speaks of Moses in the 
third person, but also bears witness to many details con 
cerning him; for instance, "Moses talked with God;" 
" The Lord spoke with Moses face to face ; " " Moses was 
the meekest of men" (Numb. xii. 3) ; "Moses was wrath 
with the captains of the host ; " Moses, the man of God ; " 
"Moses, the servant of the Lord, died;" "There was 
never a prophet in Israel like unto Moses," &c. On the 
other hand, in Deuteronomy, where the law which Moses 
had expounded to the people and written is set forth, 
Moses speaks and declares what he has done in the first 
person: "God spake with me" (Deut. ii. 1, 17, <fc c .), 
" I prayed to the Lord," &c. Except at the end of the 
book, when the historian, after relating the words of 
Moses, begins again to speak in the third person, and 
to tell how Moses handed over the law which he had 
expounded to the people in writing, again admonishing 
them, and further, how Moses ended his life. All these 
details, the manner of narration, the testimony, and the 
context of the whole story lead to the plain conclusion 


that these "books were written by another, and not by 
Moses in person. 

II. We must also remark that the history relates not 
only the manner of Moses death and burial, and the 
thirty days mourning of the Hebrews, but further com 
pares him with all the prophets who came after him, and 
states that he surpassed them all. " There was never a 
prophet in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew 
face to face." Such testimony cannot have been given of 
Moses by himself, nor by any who immediately succeeded 
him, but it must come from someone who lived centuries 
afterwards, especially as the historian speaks of past 
times. " There was never a prophet," &c. And of the 
place of burial, " No one knows it to this day." 

III. We must note that some places are not styled by 
the names they bore during Moses lifetime, but by others 
which they obtained subsequently. For instance, Abraham 
is said to have pursued his enemies even unto Dan, a name 
not bestowed on the city till long after the death of Joshua 
(Gen. xiv. 14, Judges xviii. 29). 

IV. The narrative is prolonged after the death of Moses, 
for in Exodus xvi. 34 we read that " the children of Israel 
did eat manna forty years until they came to a land in 
habited, until they came unto the borders of the land of 
Canaan." In other words, until the time alluded to in 
Joshua vi. 12. 

So, too, in Genesis xxxvi. 31 it is stated, " These are the 
kings that reigned in Edom before there reigned any king 
over the children of Israel." The historian, doubtless, here 
relates the kings of Idumcea before that territory was con 
quered by David 1 and garrisoned, as we read in 2 Sam. 
viii. 14. 

From what has been said, it is thus clearer than the sun 
at noonday that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, 
but by someone who lived long after Moses. Let us now 
turn our attention to the books which Moses actually did 
write, and which are cited in the Pentateuch ; thus, also, 
shall we see that they were different from the Pentateuch. 
Firstly, it appears from Exodus xvii. 14 that Moses, by 
the command of God, wrote an account of the war against 
Amalek. The book in which he did so is not named in 
1 See Xoti> 10. 


the chapter just quoted, but in Numb. xxi. 12 a book is 
referred to under the title of the wars of God, and doubt 
less this war against Amalek and the castrametations said 
in Numb, xxxiii. 2 to have been written by Moses are 
therein described. We hear also in Exod. xxiv. 4 of 
another book called the Book of the Covenant, which 
Moses read before the Israelites when they first made a 
covenant with God. But this book or this writing con 
tained very little, namely, the laws or commandments of 
God which we find in Exodus xx. 22 to the end of chap. 
xxiv., and this no one will deny who reads the aforesaid 
chapter rationally and impartially. It is there stated that 
as soon as Moses had learnt the feeling of the people on 
the subject of making a covenant with God, he immediately 
wrote down God s laws and utterances, and in the morn 
ing, after some ceremonies had been performed, read out 
the conditions of the covenant to an assembly of the whole 
people. When these had been gone through, and doubt 
less understood by all, the whole people gave their assent. 

Now from the shortness of the time taken in its perusal 
and also from its nature as a compact, this document evi 
dently contained nothing more than that which we have 
just described. Further, it is clear that Moses explained 
all the laws which he had received in the fortieth year 
after the exodus from Egypt ; also that he bound over the 
people a second time to observe them, and that finally he 
committed them to writing (Deut. i. 5 ; xxix. 14 ; xxxi. 9), 
in a book which contained these laws explained, and the 
new covenant, and this book was therefore called the book 
of the law of God : the same which was afterwards added 
to by Joshua when he set forth the fresh covenant with 
which he bound over the people and which he entered into 
with God (Josh. xxiv. 25, 26). 

Now, as we have extant no book containing this covenant 
of Moses and also the covenant of Joshua, we must perforce 
conclude that it has perished, unless, indeed, we adopt the 
wild conjecture of the Chaldean paraphrast Jonathan, and 
twist about the words of Scripture to our heart s content. 
This commentator, in the face of our present difficulty, pre 
ferred corrupting the sacred text to confessing his own 
ignorance. The passage in the book of Joshua which runs, 


" and Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of 
God," he changes into " and Joshua wrote these words and 
kept them with the book of the law of God." What is to 
be done with persons who will only see what pleases them ? 
What is such a proceeding if it is not denying Scripture, 
and inventing another Bible out of our own heads? We 
may therefore conclude that the book of the law of God 
which Moses wrote was not the Pentateuch, but something 
quite different, which the author of the Pentateuch duly 
inserted into his book. So much is abundantly plain both 
from what I have said and from what I am about to add. 
For in the passage of Deuteronomy above quoted, where it 
is related that Moses wrote the book of the law, the histo 
rian adds that he handed it over to the priests and bade 
them read it out at a stated time to the whole people. 
This shows that the work was of much less length than 
the Pentateuch, inasmuch as it could be read through at 
one sitting so as to be understood by all ; further, we must 
not omit to notice that out of all the books which Moses 
wrote, this one book of the second covenant and the song 
(which latter he wrote afterwards so that all the people 
might learn it), was the only one which he caused to be re 
ligiously guarded and preserved. In the first covenant he 
had only bound over those who were present, but in the 
second covenant he bound over all their descendants also 
(Deut. xxix. 14), and therefore ordered this covenant with 
future ages to be religiously preserved, together with the 
Song, which was especially addressed to posterity : as, then, 
we have no proof that Moses wrote any book save this of 
the covenant, and as he committed no other to the care of 
posterity; and, lastly, as there are many passages in the 
Pentateuch which Moses could not have written, it follows 
that the belief that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch 
is ungrounded and even irrational. 

Someone will perhaps ask whether Moses did not also 
write down other laws when they were first revealed to him 
in other words, whether, during the course of forty years, 
he did not write down any of the laws which he promul 
gated^ save only those few which I have stated to be 
contained in the book of the first covenant. To this I 
would answer, that nJthough it seems reasonable to suppose 


that Moses wrote down the laws at the time when he 
wished to communicate them to the people, yet we are not 
warranted to take it as proved, for I have shown above 
that we must make no assertions in such matters which we 
do not gather from Scripture, or which do not flow as 
legitimate consequences from its fundamental principles. 
We must not accept whatever is reasonably probable. 
However, even reason in this case would not force such a 
conclusion upon us: for it may be that the assembly of 
elders wrote down the decrees of Moses and communicated 
them to the people, and the historian collected them, and 
duly set them forth in his narrative of the life of Moses. 
So much for the five books of Moses : it is now time for us 
to turn to the other sacred writings. 

The book of Joshua may be proved not to be an auto 
graph by reasons similar to those we have just employed : 
for it must be some other than Joshua who testifies that 
the fame of Joshua was spread over the whole world ; that 
he omitted nothing of what Moses had taught (Josh. vi. 27; 
viii. last verse ; xi. 15) ; that he grew old and summoned 
an assembly of the whole people, and finally that he de 
parted this life. Furthermore, events are related which 
took place after Joshua s death. For instance, that the 
Israelites worshipped God, after his death, so long as there 
were any old men alive who remembered him ; and in 
chap. xvi. 10, we read that "Ephraim and Manasseh did 
not drive out the Canaanites which dwelt in Gezer,but the 
Canaanite dwelt in the land of Ephraim unto this day, and 
was tributary to him." This is the same statement as that 
in Judges, chap, i., and the phrase "unto this day" shows 
that the writer was speaking of ancient times. With these 
texts we may compare the last verse of chap, xv., concern 
ing the sons of Judah, and also the history of Caleb in the 
same chap. v. 14. Further, the building of an altar beyond 
Jordan by the two tribes and a half, chap. xxii. 10, sqq., 
seems to have taken place after the death of Joshua, for in 
the whole narrative his name is never mentioned, but the 
people alone held council as to waging war, sent out legates, 
waited for their return, and finally approved of their 

Lastly, from chap. x. verse 14, it is clear that the took 


was written many generations after the death of Joshua, 
for it bears witness " there was never any day like unto 
that day, either before or after, that the Lord hear 
kened to the voice of a man," &c. If, therefore, Joshua 
wrote any book at all, it was that which is quoted in the 
work now before us, chap. x. 13. 

With regard to the book of Judges, I suppose no rational 
person persuades himself that it was written by the actual 
Judges. For the conclusion of the whole history contained 
in chap. ii. clearly shows that it is all the work of a single 
historian. Further, inasmuch as the writer frequently tells 
us that there was then no king in Israel, it is evident that 
the book was written after the establishment of the 

The books of Samuel need not detain us long, inasmuch 
as the narrative in them is continued long after Samuel s 
death ; but I should like to draw attention to the fact that 
it was written many generations after Samuel s death. For 
in book i. chap. ix. verse 9, the historian remarks in a 
parenthesis, " Beforetime, in Israel, when a man went to 
inquire of God, thus he spake : Come, and let us go to the 
seer ; for he that is now called a prophet was beforetime 
called a seer." 

Lastly, the books of Kings, as we gather from internal 
evidence, were compiled from the books of King Solomon 
(1 Kings xi. 41), from the chronicles of the kings of Judah 
(1 Kings xiv. 19, 29), and the chronicles of the kings of 

We may, therefore, conclude that all the books we have 
considered hitherto are compilations, and that the events 
therein are recorded as having happened in old time. 

Now, if we turn our attention to the connection and 
argument of all these books, we shall easily see that they 
were all written by a single historian, who wished to relate 
the antiquities of the Jews from their first beginning down 
to the first destruction of the city. The way in which the 
several books are connected one with the other is alone 
enough to show us that they form the narrative of one and 
thv same writer. For as soon as he has related the life of 
Moses, the historian thus passes on to the story of Joshua: 
" And it came to pass after that Moses the servant of the 


Lord was dead, that God spake unto Joshua," &c., so in the 
same way, after the death of Joshua was concluded, he 
passes with identically the same transition and connection 
to the history of the Judges : " And it came to pass after 
that Joshua was dead, that the children of Israel sought 
from God," &c. To the book of Judges he adds the story 
of Euth, as a sort of appendix, in these words : " Now it 
came to pass in the days that the judges ruled, that there 
was a famine in the land." 

The first book of Samuel is introduced with a similar 
phrase ; and so is the second book of Samuel. Then, before 
the history of David is concluded, the historian passes in 
the same way to the first book of Kings, and, after David s 
death, to the second book of Kings. 

The putting together, and the order of the narratives, 
show that they are all the work of one man, writing with a 
definite aim ; for the historian begins with relating the first 
origin of the Hebrew nation, and then sets forth in order 
the times and the occasions in which Moses put forth his 
laws, and made his predictions. He then proceeds to relate 
how the Israelites invaded the promised land in accordance 
with Moses prophecy (Deut. vii.) ; and how, when the land 
was subdued, they turned their backs on their laws, and 
thereby incurred many misfortunes (Deut. xxxi. 16, 17). 
He tells how they wished to elect rulers, and how, accord 
ing as these rulers observed the law, the people flourished 
or suffered (Deut. xxviii. 36) ; finally, how destruction 
came upon the nation, even as Moses had foretold. In re 
gard to other matters, which do not serve to confirm the 
law, the writer either passes over them in silence, or refers 
the reader to other books for information. All that is set 
down in the books we have conduces to the sole object of 
setting forth the words and laws of Moses, and proving 
them by subsequent events. 

When we put together these three considerations, namely, 
the unity of the subject of all the books, the connection 
between them, and the fact that they are compilations 
made many generations after the events they relate had 
taken place, we come to the conclusion, as I have just 
stated, that they are all the work of a single historian. 
Who this historian was, it is not so easy to showj but I 



suspect that lie was Ezra, and there are several strong 
reasons for adopting this hypothesis. 

The historian whom we already know to be but one 
individual brings his history down to the liberation of 
Jehoiakim, and adds that he himself sat at the king s table 
all his life that is, at the table either of Jehoiakini, or of 
the son of Nebuchadnezzar, for the sense of the passage is 
Ambiguous : hence it follows that he did not live before the 
time of Ezra. But Scripture does not testify of any except 
of Ezra (Ezra vii. 10), that he " prepared his heart to seek 
the law of the Lord, and to set it forth, and further that he 
was a ready scribe in the law of Moses." Therefore, I 
cannot find anyone, save Ezra, to whom to attribute the 
sacred books. 

Further, from this testimony concerning Ezra, we see 
that he prepared his heart, not only to seek the law of the 
Lord, but also to set it forth ; and, in Nehemiah viii. 8, 
AVG read that " they read in the book of the law of God 
distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to under 
stand the reading." 

As, then, in Deuteronomy, we find not only the book of 
the law of Moses, or the greater part of it, but also many 
things inserted for its better explanation, I conjecture that 
this Deuteronomy is the book of the law of God, written, 
set forth, and explained by Ezra, which is referred to in the 
text above quoted. Two examples of the way matters were 
inserted parenthetically in the text of Deuteronomy, with a 
view to its fuller explanation, we have already given, in 
speaking of Aben Ezra s opinion. Many others are found 
in the course of the work: for instance, in chap. ii. verse 12: 
" The llorims dwelt also in Seir beforetime ; but the children 
of Esau succeeded them, when they had destroyed them 
from before them, and dwelt in their stead; as Israel did 
unto the land of his possession, which the Lord gave unto 
them." This explains verses 3 and 4 of the same chapter, 
where it is stated that Mount Seir, which had come to the 
children of Esau for a possession, did not fall into their 
hands uninhabited ; but that they invaded it, and turned 
out and destroyed the llorims, who formerly dwelt therein, 
even as the children of Israel had dono unto the Canaaiiltca 
after the ck aih of Moses. 


So, also, verses 6, 7, 8, 9, of the tenth chapter are in 
serted parenthetically among the words of Moses. Every 
one must see that verse 8, which "begins, " At that time the 
Lord separated the tribe of Levi," necessarily refers to 
verse 5, and not to the death of Aaron, which is only men 
tioned here by Ezra because Moses, in telling of the golden 
calf worshipped by the people, stated that he had prayed 
for Aaron. 

He then explains that at the time at which. Moses spoke, 
God had chosen for Himself the tribe of Levi in order that 
He may point out the reason for their election, and for the 
fact of their not sharing in the inheritance; after this 
digression, he resumes the thread of Moses speech. To 
these parentheses we must add the preface to the book, and 
all the passages in which Moses is spoken of in the third 
person, besides many which we cannot now distinguish, 
though, doubtless, they would have been plainly recognized 
by the writer s contemporaries. 

If, I say, we were in possession of the book of the law as 
Moses wrote it, 1 do not doubt that we should find a 
great difference in the words of the precepts, the order in 
which they are given, and the reasons by which they are 

A comparison of the decalogue in Deuteronomy with the 
decalogue in Exodus, where its history is explicitly set 
forth, will be sufficient to show us a wide discrepancy in 
all these three particulars, for the fourth commandment is 
given not only in a different form, but at much greater 
length, while the reason for its observance differs wholly 
from that stated in Exodus. Again, the order in which 
the tenth commandment is explained differs in the two 
versions. I think that the differences here as elsewhere 
are the work of E/ra, who explained the law of God to his 
contemporaries, and who wrote this book of the law of God, 
before anything else ; this I gather from the fact that it 
contains the laws of the country, of which the people stood 
in most need, and also because it is not joined to the book 
which precedes it by any connecting phrase, but begins with 
the independent statement, " these are the words of Moses." 
After this task was completed, I think Ezra set himself to 
give a complete account of the history of the Hebrew nation 


fx-oni tlie creation of the world to the entire destruction of 
the city, and in this account he inserted the book of Deute 
ronomy, and, possibly, he called the first five books by the 
name of Moses, because his life is chiefly contained therein, 
and forms their principal subject ; for the same reason he 
called the sixth Joshua, the seventh Judges, the eighth 
Kuth, the ninth, and perhaps the tenth, Samuel, and, 
lastly, the eleventh and twelfth Kings. Whether Ezra put 
the finishing touches to this work and finished it as he in 
tended, we will discuss in the next chapter. 




T_T OW greatly the inquiry we have just made concerning 
* J- the real writer of the twelve "books aids us in attain 
ing a complete understanding of them, may be easily 
gathered solely from the passages which we have adduced 
in confirmation of our opinion, and which would be most 
obscure without it. But besides the question of the writer, 
there are other points to notice which common superstition 
forbids the multitude to apprehend. Of these the chief is, 
that Ezra (whom I will take to be the author of the afore 
said books until some more likely person be suggested) did 
not put the finishing touches to the narratives contained 
therein, but merely collected the histories from various 
writers, and sometimes simply set them down, leaving 
their examination and arrangement to posterity. 

The cause (if it were not untimely death) which pre 
vented him from completing his work in all its portions, I 
cannot conjecture, but the fact remains most clear, although 
we have lost the writings of the ancient Hebrew historians, 
and can only judge from the few fragments which are still 
extant. For the history of Hezekiah (2 Kings xviii. 17), as 
written in the vision of Isaiah, is related as it is found in 
the chronicles of the kings of Judah. We read the same 
story, told with few exceptions * in the same words, in the 
book of Isaiah which was contained in the chronicles of the 
kings of Judah (2 Chron. xxxii. 32). From this we must 
conclude that there were various versions of this narrative 
of Isaiah s, unless, indeed, anyone would dream that in this, 
too, there lurks a mystery. Further, the last chapter of 
1 See Note 11. 


2 Kings 27-30 is repeated in the last chapter of Jere- 
iniali, v. 31-34. 

Again, we find 2 Sam. vii. repeated in 1 Chron. xvii., 
but the expressions in the two passages are so curiously 
varied, 1 that we can very easily see that these two chapters 
were taken from two different versions of the history cf 

Lastly, the genealogy of the kings of Idumooa contained 
in Genesis xxxvi. 31, is repeated in the same words in 
1 Chron. i., though we know that the author of the latter 
work took his materials from other historians, not from 
the twelve Looks we have ascribed to Ezra. We may 
therefore be sure that if we still possessed the writings of 
the historians, the matter would be made clear ; however, 
as we have lost them, we can only examine the writings 
still extant, and from their order and connection, their 
various repetitions, and, lastly, the contradictions in dates 
which they contain, judge of the rest. 

These, then, or the chief of them, we will now go through. 
First, in tin- story of Judah and Tamar (Gen. xxxviii.) 
the historian thus begins : " And it came to pass at that 
time that Judah went down from his brethren." This time 
cannot refer to what immediately precede?,- but must neces 
sarily refer to something else, for from the time when 
Joseph was sold into Egypt to the time when the patriarch 
Jacob, with all his family, set out thither, cannot be 
reckoned as more than twenty-two years, for Joseph, when 
he was sold by his brethren, was seventeen years old, and 
when he was summoned by Pharaoh from prison was 
thirty ; if to this we add the seven years of plenty and 
two of famine, the total amounts to twenty-two years. 
Now, in so short a period, no one can suppose that so 
many things happened as are described ; that Judah had 
three children, one after the other, from one wife, whom 
he married at the beginning of the period; that the 
eldest of these, when he was old enough, married Tamar, 
and that after he died his next brother succeeded to her ; 
that, after all this, Judah, without knowing it, had inter 
course with his daughter-in-law, and that she bore him 
twins, and, finally, that the eldest of these twins became a 
father within the aforesaid period. As all these events 
1 Sec Note 12. a & u Note 1 13. 


cannot have taken place within the period mcntioned^ in 
Genesis, the reference must necessarily "be to something 
treated of in another Look: and Ezra in this instance 
simply related the story, and inserted it without examina 
tion among his other writings, 

However, not only this chapter "but the whole narrative 
of Joseph and Jacob is collected and set forth from various 
histories, inasmuch as it is quite inconsistent with itself. 
For in Gen. xlvii. we are told that Jacob, when he came at 
Joseph s bidding to salute Pharaoh, was 130 years old. 
If from this we deduct the twenty-two years which he 
passed sorrowing for the absence of Joseph and the seven 
teen years forming Joseph s age when he was sold, and, 
lastly, the seven years for which Jacob served for Rachel, 
we find that he was very advanced in life, namely, eighty- 
four, when he took Leah to wife, whereas Dinah was 
scarcely seven years old when she was violated by Shechem. 1 
Simeon and Levi were aged respectively eleven and twelve 
when they spoiled the city and slew all the males therein 
with the sword. 

There is no need that I should go through the whole 
Pentateuch. If anyone pays attention to the way in 
which all the histories and precepts in these five books are 
set down promiscuously and without order, with no regard 
for dates ; and further, how the same story is often re 
peated, sometimes in a different version, he will easily, I 
say, discern that all the materials were promiscuously col 
lected and heaped together, in order that they might at 
some subsequent time be more readily examined and 
reduced to order. Not only these five books, but also the 
narratives contained in the remaining seven, going down 
to the destruction of the city, are compiled in the same 
way. For who does not see that in Judges ii. 6 a new 
historian is being quoted, who had also written of the 
deeds of Joshua, and that his words are simply copied ? 
For after our historian has stated in the last chapter of 
the book of Joshua that Joshua died and was buried, and 
has promised, in the first chapter of Judges, to relate what 
happened after his death, in what way, if he wished to con 
tinue the thread of his history, could he connect the state 
ment here made about Joshua with what had gone before ? 
1 See Note 14. 


So, too, 1 Sam. 17, 18, are taken from another his- 
torian, who assigns a cause for David s first frequenting 
Saul s court very different from that given in chap. xvi. 
of the same book. For he did not think that David camo 
to Saul in consequence of the advice of Saul s servants, as 
is narrated in chap, xvi., but that bein^ sent by chance to 
the camp by his father on a message to his brothers, he 
was for the first time remarked by Saul on the occasion of 
his victory over Goliath the Philistine, and was retained 
at his court. 

I suspect the same thing has taken place in chap. xxvi. 
of the same book, for the historian there seems to repeat 
the narrative given in chap. xxiv. according to another 
man s version. But I pass over this, and go on to the 
computation of dates. 

In 1 Kings, chap, vi., it is said that Solomon built the 
Temple in the four hundred and eightieth year after the 
exodus from Egypt; but from the historians themselves 
we get a much longer period, for 


Moses governed the people in the desert . . 40 
Joshua, who lived 110 years, did not, according to 

Josephus and others opinion rule more than . 2G 
Cushan Kishathaim held the people in subjection . 8 
Othniel, son of Kenag, was judge for . * . . 40 1 
Eglon, King of Moab, governed the people . . 18 
Ehud and Shamgar were judges .... 80 
Jachin, King of Canaan, held the people in sub 
jection 20 

The people was at peace subsequently for . . 40 

It was under subjection to Midian .... 7 

It obtained freedom under Gideon for ... 40 

It fell under the rule of Abimelech ... 3 

Tola, son of Puah, was judge 23 

Jair was judge ....... 22 

The people was in subjection to the Philistines and 

Ammonites ....... 18 

Jephthah was judge ...... 6 

Ibzan, the Bethlehemite, was judge ... 7 

Elon, the Zabulonite 10 

Abdon, the Pirathonite ...... 8 

1 See Note !.">. 


The people was again subject to the Philistines . 40 

. T OA1 

Samson was judge ....... ^ u 

Eli was judge . . .40 

The people again fell into subjection to the Philis 
tines, till they were delivered by Samuel . 
David reigned ....... 40 

Solomon reigned "before he built the temple . . 4 

All these periods added together make a total of 580 years. 
But to these must be added the years during which the 
Hebrew republic flourished after the death of Joshua, 
until it was conquered by Cushan Rishathaim, which I 
take to be very numerous, for I cannot bring myself to 
believe that immediately after the death of Joshua all 
those who had witnessed his miracles died simultaneously, 
nor that their successors at one stroke bid farewell to their 
laws, and plunged from the highest virtue into the depth 
of wickedness and obstinacy. 

Nor, lastly, that Cushan Rishathaim subdued them on 
the instant; each one of these circumstances requires 
almost a generation, and there is no doubt that Judges 
ii. 7, 9, 10, comprehends a great many years which it 
passes over in silence. We must also add the years during 
which Samuel was judge, the number of which is not 
stated in Scripture, and also the years during which Saul 
reigned, which are not clearly shown from his history. It is, 
indeed, stated in 1 Sam. xiii. 1, that he reigned two years, 
but the text in that passage is mutilated, and the records 
of Ms reign lead us to suppose a longer period. That the 
text is mutilated I suppose no one will doubt who has 
ever advanced so far as the threshold of the Hebrew lan 
guage, for it runs as follows : " Saul was in his year, 

when he began to reign, and he reigned two years over 
Israel." Who, I say, does not see that the number of the 
years of Saul s age when he began to reign has been omitted? 
That the record of the reign presupposes a greater number 
of years is equally beyond doubt, for in the same book, 
chap, xxvii. 7, it is stated that David sojourned among the 
Philistines, to whom he had fled on account of Saul, a year 
and four months j thus the rest of the reign must have been 
1 See Note 1G 


comprised in a space of eight months, which I think no one 
will credit. Joscphus, at the end of the sixth Look of his 
antiquities, thus corrects the text : Saul reigned eighteen 
years while Samuel was alive, and two years after his 
death. However, all the narrative in chap. xiii. is in 
complete disagreement with what goes "before. At the 
end of chap. vii. it is narrated that the Philistines were so 
crushed by the Hebrews that they did not venture, during 
Samuel s life, to invade the borders of Israel; but in 
chap. xiii. we are told that the Hebrews were invaded 
during the life of Samuel by the Philistines, and reduced 
by them to such a state of wretchedness and poverty that 
they were deprived not only of weapons with which to 
defend themselves, but also of the means of making more. 
I should be at pains enough if I were to try and harmo 
nize all the narratives contained in this first book of 
Samuel so that they should seem to be all written and 
arranged by a single historian. But I return to my object. 
The years, then, during which Saul reigned must be added 
to the above computation ; and, lastly, I have not counted 
the years of the Hebrew anarchy, for I cannot from Scrip 
ture gather their number. I cannot, I say, be certain as 
to the period occupied by the events related in Judges 
chap. xvii. on till the end of the book. 

It is thus abundantly evident that we cannot arrive at a 
true computation of years from the histories, and, further, 
that the histories are inconsistent themselves on the sub 
ject. We are compelled to confess that these histories were 
compiled from various writers without previous arrange 
ment and examination. Not less discrepancy is found 
between the dates given in the Chronicles of the Kings of 
Judah, and those in the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel ; 
in the latter, it is stated that Jehoram, the son of Ahab, 
began to reign in the second year of the reign of Jehoram, 
the son of Jehoshaphat (2 Kings i. 17), but in the former wo 
read that Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, began to reign 
in the fifth year of Jehoram, the son of A.hab (2 Kings viii. 
16). Anyone who compares the narratives in Chronicles 
with the narratives in the books of Kings, will find many 
similar discrepancies. These there is no need for me lo 
examine here, and still less arn I called upon to treat of the 


commentaries of those who endeavour to harmonize them. 
The Rabbis evidently let their fancy run wild. Such com 
mentators as I have read, dream, invent, and as a last 
resort, play fast and loose with the language. For instance, 
when it is said in 2 Chronicles, that Ahab was forty-two 
years old when he began to reign, they pretend that these 
years are computed from the reign of Omri, not from the 
birth of Ahab. If this can be shown to be the real mean 
ing of the writer of the book of Chronicles, all I can say is, 
that he did not know how to state a fact. The commen 
tators make many other assertions of this kind, which if 
true, would prove that the ancient Hebrews were ignorant 
both of their own language, and of the way to relate a plain 
narrative. I should in such case recognize 110 rule or reason 
in interpreting Scripture, but it would be permissible to 
hypothesize to one s heart s content, 

If anyone thinks that I am speaking too generally, and 
without sufficient warrant, I would ask him to set himself 
to showing us some fixed plan in these histories which might 
be followed without blame by other writers of chronicles, 
and in his efforts at harmonizing and interpretation, so 
strictly to observe and explain the phrases and expressions, 
the order and the connections, that we may be able to imi 
tate these also in our writings. 1 If he succeeds, I will at 
once give him my hand, and he shall be to me as great 
Apollo ; for I confess that after long endeavours I have 
been unable to discover anything of the kind. I may add 
that I set down nothing here which I have not long reflected 
upon, and that, though I was imbued from my boyhood 
up with the ordinary opinions about the Scriptures, I have 
been unable to withstand the force of what I have urged. 

However, there is no need to detain the reader with this 
question, and drive him to attempt an impossible task ; I 
merely mentioned the fact in order to throw light on my 

I now pass on to other points concerning the treatment 
of these books. For we must remark, in addition to what 
has been shown, that these books were not guarded by pos 
terity with such care that no faults crept in. The ancient 
scribes draw attention to many doubtful readings, and some 
mutilated passages, but not to all that exist : whether the 
1 Sec Note 17. 


faults arc of sufficient importance to greatly embarrass the 
reader I will not now discuss. I am inclined to think that 
they are of minor moment to those, at any rate, who read 
the Scriptures with enlightenment: and I can positively 
affirm that I have not noticed any fault or various reading 
in doctrinal passages sufficient to render them obscure or 

^ There are some people, however, who will not admit that 
there is any corruption, even in other passages, but main 
tain that by some unique exercise of providence God has 
preserved from corruption every word in the Bible : they 
say that the various readings are the symbols of pro- 
foundest mysteries, and that mighty secrets lie hid in the 
twenty-eight hiatus which occur, nay, even in the very form 
of the letters. 

Whether they are actuated by folly and anile devotion, 
or whether by arrogance and malice so that they alone may 
be held to possess the secrets of God, I know not: this 
much I do know, that I find in their writings nothing which 
has the air of a Divine secret, but only childish lucubrations. 
I IKU<> iva.l and known certain Kabbalistic triflers, whose 
insanity provokes my unceasing astonishment. That faults 
have crept in will, I think, be denied by no sensible person 
who reads the passage about Saul, above quoted (1 Sam. 
xiii. 1) and also 2 Sam. vi. 2: "And David arose and 
went with all the people that were with him from Judah, 
to bring up from thence the ark of God." 

No one can fail to remark that the name of their destina 
tion, viz., Kirjath-jearim^has been omitted: nor can we 
deny that 2 Sam. xiii. 37, has been tampered with and 
mutilated. "And Absalom fled, and went to Talmai, the 
son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And he mourned for his 
son every day. So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and 
was there three years." I know that I have remarked other 
passages of the same kind, but I cannot recall them at the 

That the marginal notes which are found continually in 
the Hebrew Codices are doubtful readings will, I think, be 
evident to everyone who has noticed that they often arise 
from the great similarity of some of the Hebrew letters, 
Buch for instance, as the similarity between Kaph and 
1 See Note 18. 


Beth, Jod and Vau, Daleth and Reth, &c. For example, 
the text in 2 Sam. v. 24, runs "in the time when thou 
nearest," and similarly in Judges xxi. 22, "And it shall 
be when their fathers or their brothers come unto us often," 
the marginal version is " come unto us to complain." 

So also many various readings have arisen from the use 
of the letters named mutes, which are generally not sounded 
in pronunciation, and are taken promiscuously, one for the 
other. For example, in Levit. xxv. 29, it is written, " The 
house shall be established which is not in the walled city," 
but the margin has it, " which is in a walled city." 

Though these matters are self-evident, it is necessary to 
answer the reasonings of certain Pharisees, by which they 
endeavour to convince us that the marginal notes serve to 
indicate some mystery and were added or pointed out by 
the writers of the sacred books. The first of these reasons, 
which, in my opinion, carries little weight, is taken from 
the practice of reading the Scriptures aloud. 

If, it is urged, these notes were added to show various 
readings which could not be decided upon by posterity, why 
has custom prevailed that the marginal readings should 
always be retained ? Why has the meaning which is pre 
ferred been set down in the margin when it ought to have 
been incorporated in the text, and not relegated to a side 

The second reason is more specious, and is taken from 
the nature of the case. It is admitted that faults have 
crept into the sacred writings by chance and not by design ; 
but they say that in the five books the word for a girl is, 
with one exception, written without the letter " he," con 
trary to all grammatical rules, whereas in the margin it is 
written correctly according to the universal rule of grammar. 
Can this have happened by mistake? Is it possible to 
imagine a clerical error to have been committed every time 
the word occurs ? Moreover, it would have been easy to 
supply the emendation. Hence, when these readings are 
not accidental or corrections of manifest mistakes, it is sup 
posed that they must have been set down on purpose by 
the original writers, and have a meaning. However, it is 
easy to answer such arguments ; as to the question of cus 
tom having prevailed in the reading of the marginal versions, 


I will not spare much time for its consideration : I know 
not the promptings of superstition, and perhaps the prac 
tice may have arisen from the idea that both readings were 
deemed equally good or tolerable, and therefore, lest either 
should be neglected, one was appointed to be written, and 
the other to be read. They feared to pronounce judgment in so 
weighty a matter lest they should mistake the false for the 
true, and therefore they would give preference to neither, as 
they must necessarily have done if they had commanded one 
only to be both read and written. This would be especially 
the case where the marginal readings were not written down 
in the sacred books: or the custom may have originated be 
cause some things though rightly written down were desired 
to be read otherwise according to the marginal version, and 
therefore the general rule was made that the marginal ver 
sion should be followed in reading the Scriptures. The 
cause which induced the scribes to expressly prescribe 
certain passages to be read in the marginal version, I will 
now touch on, for not all the marginal notes are various 
readings, but some mark expressions which have passed 
out of common use, obsolete words and terms which current 
decency did not allow to be read in a public assembly. 
The ancient writers, without any evil intention, employed 
no courtly paraphrase, but called things by their plain 
names. Afterwards, through the spread of evil thoughts 
and luxury, words which could be used by the ancients 
without offence, came to be considered obscene. There was 
no need for tin s cause to change the text of Scripture. 
Still, as a concession to the popular weakness, it became tho 
custom to substitute more decent terms for words denoting 
sexual intercourse, excreta, &c., and to read them as they 
were given in the margin. 

At any rate, whatever may have been the origin of the 
practice of reading Scripture according to the marginal 
version, it was not that the true interpretation is contained 
therein. Tor besides that, the Rabbins in the Talmud often 
ilitfcr from the Massoretes, and give other readings which 
they approve of, as I will shortly show, certain things aro 
Pound in the margin which appear less warranted by the 
uses of the Hebrew language. For example, in 2 Samuel 
xiv. 22, we read, " In that the king hath fulfilled the re- 


quest of his servant," a construction plainly regular, and 
agreeing with that in chap. xvi. But the margin has it "of 
thy servant," which does not agree with the person of the 
verb. So, too, chap. xvi. 25 of the same book, we find, 
" As if one had inquired at the oracle of God," the margin 
adding " someone " to stand as a nominative to the verb. 
But the correction is not apparently warranted, for it is a 
common practice, well known to grammarians in the He 
brew language, to use the third person singular of the active 
verb impersonally. 

The second argument advanced by the Pharisees is easily 
answered from what has just been said, namely, that the 
scribes besides the various readings called attention to ob 
solete words. For there is no doubt that in Hebrew as in 
other languages, changes of use made many words obsolete 
and antiquated, and such were found by the later scribes 
in the sacred books and noted by them with a view to the 
books being publicly read according to custom. For this 
reason the word nahgar is always found marked because its 
gender was originally common, and it had the same mean 
ing as the Latin juvenis (a young person). So also the 
Hebrew capital was anciently called Jerusalem, not Jerusa- 
laim. As to the pronouns himself and herself, I think that 
the later scribes changed van into jod (a very frequent 
change in Hebrew) when they wished to express the femi 
nine gender, but that the ancients only distinguished the 
two genders by a change of vowels. I may also remark 
that the irregular tenses of certain verbs differ in the 
ancient and modern forms, it being formerly considered a 
mark of elegance to employ certain letters agreeable to the 

In a word, I could easily multiply proofs of this kind if 
I were not afraid of abusing the patience of the reader. 
Perhaps I shall be asked how I became acquainted with the 
fact that all these expressions are obsolete. I reply that I 
have found them in the most ancient Hebrew writers in the 
Bible itself, and that they have not been imitated by sub 
sequent authors, and thus they are recognized as antiquated, 
though the language in which they occur is dead. But 
perhaps someone may press the question why, if it be true, 
as I say, that the marginal notes of the Bible generally 


mark various readings, there are never more than two 
readings of a passage, that in the text and that in the 
margin, instead of three or more ; and further, how the 
scribes can have hesitated between two readings, one of 
which is evidently contrary to grammar, and the other a 
plain correction. 

The answer to these questions also is easy : I will pre 
mise that it is almost certain that there once were more 
various readings than those now recorded. For instance, 
one finds many in the Talmud which the Massoretes have 
neglected, and are so different one from the other that even 
the superstitious editor of the Bomberg Bible confesses that 
he cannot harmonize them. " We cannot say anything," he 
writes, " except what we have said above, namely, that the 
Talmud is generally in contradiction to the Massoretes." 
So that we are not bound to hold that there never were 
more than two readings of any passage, yet I am willing to 
admit, and indeed I believe that more than two readings 
are never found : and for the following reasons : (I.) The 
cause of the differences of reading only admits of two, being 
generally the similarity of certain letters, so that the ques 
tion resolved itself into which should be written Beth, or 
Kaf, Jod or Vau, Daleth or Eeth : cases which are con 
stantly occurring, and frequently yielding a fairly good 
meaning whichever alternative be adopted. Sometimes, 
too, it is a question whether a syllable be long or short, 
quantity being determined by the letters called mutes. 
Moreover, we never asserted that all the marginal versions, 
without exception, marked various readings ; 011 the con 
trary, we have stated that many were due to motives of 
decency or a desire to explain obsolete words. (II.) I am in 
clined to attribute the fact that more than two readings arc 
never found to the paucity of exemplars, perhaps not more 
than two or three, found by the scribes. In the treatise 
of the scribes, chap, vi., mention is made of three only, pre 
tended to have been found in the time of Ezra, in order that 
the marginal versions might be attributed to him. 

However that may be, if the scribes only had three codices 
we may easily imagine that in a given passage two of them 
would be in accord, for it would be extraordinary if each 
one of the three gave a different reading of the same text. 


The dearth of copies after the time of Ezra will surprise 
no one who has read the 1st chapter of Maccabees, or 
Josephus s "," Bk. 12, chap. 5. Nay, it appears 
wonderful considering the fierce and daily persecution, that 
even these few should have been preserved. This will, 
I think, be plain to even a cursory reader of the history 
of those times. 

We have thus discovered the reasons why there are never 
more than two readings of a passage in the Bible, but this 
is a long way from supposing that we may therefore con 
clude that the Bible was purposely written incorrectly in 
such passages in order to signify some mystery. As to the 
second argument, that some passages are so faultily written 
that they are at plain variance with all grammar, and 
should have been corrected in the text and not in the 
margin, I attach little weight to it, for I am not concerned 
to say what religious motive the scribes may have had for 
acting as they did: possibly they did so from candour, 
wishing to transmit the few exemplars of the Bible which 
*.? liad found exa ctly in their original state, marking the 
differences they discovered in the margin, not as doubtful 
readings, but as simple variants. I have myself called 
them doubtful readings, because it would be generallv im 
possible to say which of the two versions is preferable. 

Lastly, besides these doubtful readings the scribes 
have (by leaving a hiatus in the middle of a paragraph) 
marked several passages as mutilated. The Massoretes 
have counted up such instances, and they amount to eight- 
and-twenty. I do not know whether any mystery is thought 
to lurk in the number, at any rate the Pharisees religiously 
preserve a certain amount of empty space. 
^ One of such hiatus occurs (to give an instance) in Gen. 
iv. 8, where ^it is written, "And Cain said to his brother 
.... and it came to pass while they were in the field, &c." 
a space being left in which we should expect to hear what 
it was that Cain said. 

Similarly there are (besides those points we have noticed) 
eight-and-twenty hiatus left by the scribes. Many of 
these would not be recognized as mutilated if it were not 
for the empty spa^ left. But I have said enough on this 




I NOW pass on to the remaining books of the Old Tes 
tament. Concerning the two books of Chronicles I have 
nothing particular or important to remark, except that 
tl>cy were certainly written after the time of Ezra, and pos 
sibly after the restoration of the Temple by Judas Macca- 
bacus. 1 For in chap. ix. of the first book we find a reckon 
ing of the families who were the first to live in Jerusalem, 
and in verse 17 the names of the porters, of which two 
recur in Nehemiah. This shows that the books were cer 
tainly compiled after the rebuilding of the city. As to 
their actual writer, their authority, utility, and doctrine, I 
come to no conclusion. I have always been astonished 
that they have been included in the Bible by men w r ho 
shut out from the canon the books of Wisdom, Tobit, and 
the others styled apocryphal. I do not aim at disparaging 
their authority, but as they are universally received I will 
leave them as they are. 

The Psalms were collected and divided into five books in 
the time of the second temple, for Ps. Ixxxviii. was published, 
according to Philo-Judceus, while king Jehoiachin was still 
a prisoner in Babylon ; and Ps. lxxx>:. when the same king 
obtained his liberty : I do not think Philo would have 
made the statement unless either it had been the received 
opinion in his time, or else had been told him by trust 
worthy persons. 

The Proverbs of Solomon were, I believe, collected at the 
same time, or at least in the time of King Josiah ; for in 
chap. xxv. 1, it is written, " These are also proverbs of Solo 
mon which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, copied out." 
I cannot here pass over in silence tb^ audacity of tho 
Kabbis who wished to exclude from the" sacred canon both 
1 See Note 19. 


the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, and to put them both in the 
Apocrypha. In fact, they would actually have done so, if 
they had not lighted on certain passages in which the law 
of Moses is extolled. It is, indeed, grievous to think that 
the settling of the sacred canon lay in the hands of such 
men; however, I congratulate them, in this instance, on 
their suffering us to see these books in question, though I 
cannot refrain from doubting whether they have trans 
mitted them in absolute good faith ; but I will not now 
linger on this point. 

I pass on, then, to the prophetic books. An examination 
of these assures me that the prophecies therein contained 
have been compiled from other books, and are not always 
set down in the exact order in which they were spoken or 
written by the prophets, but are only such as were collected 
here and there, so that they are but fragmentary. 

Isaiah began to prophecy in the reign of Uzziah, as the 
writer himself testifies in the first verse. He not only 
prophesied at that time, but furthermore wrote the his 
tory of that king (see 2 Chron. xxvi. 22) in a volume 
now lost. That which we possess, we have shown to have 
been taken from the chronicles of the kings of Judah and 

We may add that the Eabbis assert that this prophet 
prophesied in the reign of Manasseh, by whom he was 
eventually put to death, and, although this seems to be a 
myth, it yet shows that they did not think that all Isaiah s 
prophecies are extant. 

The prophecies of Jeremiah, which are related historically 
are also taken from various chronicles ; for not only are 
they heaped together confusedly, without any account being 
taken of dates, but also the same story is told in them dif 
ferently in different passages. For instance, in chap. xxi. 
we are told that the cause of Jeremiah s arrest was that he 
had prophesied the destruction of the city to Zedekiah who 
consulted him. This narrative suddenly passes, in chap xxii., 
to the prophet s remonstrances to Jehoiakim (Zedekiah s 
predecessor), and the prediction he made of that king s cap 
tivity ; then, in chap, xxv., come the revelations granted to 
the prophet previously, that is in the fourth year of Je 
hoiakim, and, further on still, the revelations received in 


the first year of the same reign. The contimiator of Jere 
miah goes on heaping prophecy upon prophecy without any 
regard to dates, until at last, in chap, xxxviii. (as if the in 
tervening chapters had been a parenthesis), he takes up the 
thread dropped in chap. xxi. 

In fact, the conjunction with which chap, xxxviii. begins, 
refers to the 8th, 9th, and 10th verses of chap. xxi. Jere 
miah s last arrest is then very differently described, and a 
totally separate cause is given for his daily retention in the 
court of the prison. 

We may thus clearly see that these portions of the book 
have been compiled from various sources, and are only from 
this point of view comprehensible. The prophecies con 
tained in the remaining chapters, where Jeremiah speaks 
in the first person, seem to be taken from a book written 
by Baruch, at Jeremiah s dictation. These, however, only 
comprise (as appears from chap, xxxvi. 2) the prophecies 
revealed to the prophet from the time of Josiah to the fourth 
year of Jehoiakim, at which period the book begins. The 
contents of chap. xlv. 2, on to chap. li. 59, seem taken from 
the same volume. 

That the book of Ezekiel is only a fragment, is clearly 
indicated by the first verse. For anyone may see that the 
conjunction with which it begins, refers to something al 
ready said, and connects what follows therewith. However, 
not only this conjunction, but the whole text of the discourse 
implies other writings. The fact of the present work be 
ginning in the thirtieth year shows that the prophet is con 
tinuing, not commencing a discourse ; and this is confirmed 
by the writer, who parenthetically states in verse 3, " The 
word of the Lord came often unto Ezekiel the priest, the 
son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans," as if to say that 
the prophecies which he is about to relate are the sequel to 
revelations formerly received by Ezekiel from God. Further 
more, Josephus, " Antiq." x. 9, says that Ezekiel prophesied 
that Zedekiah should not see Babylon, whereas the book 
we now have not only contains no such statement, but con 
trariwise asserts in chap. xvii. that he should be taken to 
Babylon as a captive. 1 

Of llosea I cannot positively state that he wrote more 
than is now extant in the book bearing lu s name, but I am 
1 bee Note 20. 


astonished at the smallness of the quantity we possess, for 
the sacred writer asserts that the prophet prophesied for 
more than eighty years. 

We may assert, speaking generally, that the compiler of 
the prophetic books neither collected all the prophets, nor 
all the writings of those we have ; for of the prophets who 
are said to have prophesied in the reign of Manasseh and of 
whom general mention is made in 2 Chron. xxxiii. 10, 18, 
we have, evidently, no prophecies extant ; neither have wo 
all the prophecies of the twelve who give their names to 
books. Of Jonah we have only the prophecy concerning 
the Mnevites, though he also prophesied to the children of 
Israel, as we learn in 2 Kings xiv. 25. 

The book and the personality of Job have caused much 
controversy. Some think that the book is the work of 
Moses, and the whole narrative merely allegorical. Such 
is the opinion of the Rabbins recorded in the Talmud, and 
they are supported by Maimonides in Ms " More Nebuchim." 
Others believe it to be a true history, and some suppose that 
Job lived in the time of Jacob, and was married to his 
daughter Dinah. Aben Ezra, however, as I have already 
stated, affirms, in his commentaries, that the work is a 
translation into Hebrew from some other language : I could 
wish that he could advance more cogent arguments than 
he does, for we might then conclude that the Gentiles also 
had sacred books. I myself leave the matter undecided, 
but I conjecture Job to have been a Gentile, and a man of 
very stable character, who at first prospered, then was as 
sailed with terrible calamities, and finally was restored to 
great happiness. (He is thus named, among others, by 
Ezekiel, xiv. 12.) I take it that the constancy of his mind 
amid the vicissitudes of his fortune occasioned many men to 
dispute about God s providence, or at least caused the writer 
of the book in question to compose his dialogues ; for the 
contents, and also the style, seem to emanate far less from 
a man wretchedly ill and lying among ashes, than from one 
reflecting at ease in his study. I should also be inclined 
to agree with Aben Ezra that the book is a translation, for 
its poetry seems akin to that of the Gentiles ; thus the 
Father of Gods summons a council, and Momus, here called 
Satan, criticizes the Divine decrees with the utmost freedom. 


But tlicso are mere conjectures without any solid foun- 

I pass on to the book of Daniel, which, from chap. viii. 
onwards, undoubtedly contains the writing of Daniel him 
self. Whence the first seven chapters are derived I cannot 
say ; we may, however, conjecture that, as they were first 
written in Chaldean, they are taken from Chaldean 
chronicles. If this could be proved, it would form a very 
striking proof of the fact that the sacredness of Scripture 
depends on our understanding of the doctrines therein sig 
nified, and not on the words, the language, and the phrases 
in which these doctrines are conveyed to us ; and it would 
further show us that books which teach and speak of what 
ever is highest and best are equally sacred, whatever be the 
tongue in which they are written, or the nation to which 
they belong. 

We can, however, in this case only remark that the 
chapters in question were written in Chaldee, and yet are 
as sacred as the rest of the Bible. 

The first book of Ezra is so intimately connected with 
the book of Daniel that both are plainly recognizable as the 
work of the same author, writing of Jewish history from 
the time of the first captivity onwards. I have no hesita 
tion in joining to this the book of Esther, for the conjunc 
tion with which it begins can refer to nothing else. It 
cannot be the same work as that written by Mordecai, for, 
in chap. ix. 20-22, another person relates that Mord^ai 
wrote letters, and tells us their contents; further, that 
Queen Esther confirmed the days of Purim in their times 
appointed, and that the decree was written in the book 
that is (by a Hebraism), in a book known to all then living, 
which, as Abcn Ezra and the rest confess, has now perished. 
Lastly, for the rest of the acts of Mordecai, the historian 
refers us to the chronicles of the kings of Persia. Thus 
there is no doubt that this book was written by the same 
person as he who recounted the history of Daniel and Ezra, 
and who wrote Nehemiah, 1 sometimes called the second 
book of Ezra. We may, then, affirm that all these books 
are from one hand ; but we have no clue whatever to the 
personality of the author. However, in order to determine 
whence he, whoever ho was, had gained a knowledge of 
1 Scu Note :>l. 


the histories which he had, perchance, in great measure 
himself written, we may remark that the governors or 
chiefs of the Jews, after the restoration of the Temple, kept 
scribes or historiographers, who wrote annals or chronicles 
of them. The chronicles of the kings are often quoted in 
the books of Kings, but the chronicles of the chiefs and 
priests are quoted for the first time in Nehemiah xii. 23, 
and again in 1 Mace. xvi. 24. This is undoubtedly the 
book referred to as containing the decree of Esther and the 
acts of Mordecai ; and which, as we said with Aben Ezra, 
is now lost. From it were taken the whole contents of 
these four books, for no other authority is quoted by their 
writer, or is known to us. 

That these books were not written by either Ezra or 
Nehemiah is plain from Nehemiah xii. 9, where the de 
scendants of the high priest, Joshua are traced down to 
Jaddua, the sixth high priest, who went to meet Alexander 
the Great, when the Persian empire was almost subdued 
(Josephus, "Ant." ii. 108), or who, according to Philo-Judseus, 
was the sixth and last high priest under the Persians. In 
the same chapter of Nehemiah, verse 22, this point is clearly 
brought out : " The Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, 
and Johanan, and Jaddua, were recorded chief of the 
fathers : also the priests, to the reign of Darius the Per 
sian" that is to say, in the chronicles; and, I suppose, 
no one thinks 1 that the lives of Nehemiah and Ezra were so 
prolonged that they outlived fourteen kings of Persia. 
Cyrus was the first who granted the Jews permission to 
rebuild their Temple: the period between his time and 
Darius, fourteenth and last king of Persia, extends over 
230 years. I have, therefore, no doubt that these books 
were written after Judas Maccabosus had restored the 
worship in the Temple, for at that time false books of 
Daniel, Ezra, and Esther were published by evil-disposed 
persons, who were almost certainly Sadducees, for the 
writings were never recognized by the Pharisees, so far 
as I am aware ; and, although certain myths in the fourth 
book of Ezra are repeated in the Talmud, they must not 
be set down to the Pharisees, for all but the most igno 
rant admit that they have been added by some trifler: 
in fact, I think, someone must have made such addi- 
1 See Note 22. 


tions with a view to casting ridicule on all the traditions of 
the sect. 

Perhaps these four books were written out and published 
at the time I have mentioned with a view to showing the 
people that the prophecies of Daniel had been fulfilled, and 
thus kindling their piety, and awakening a hope of future 
deliverance in the midst of their misfortunes. In spite of 
their recent origin, the books before us contain many 
errors, due, I suppose, to the haste with which they were 
written. Marginal readings, such as I have mentioned in 
the last chapter, are found here as elsewhere, and in even 
greater abundance ; there are, moreover, certain passages 
which can only be accounted for by supposing some such 
cause as hurry. 

However, before calling attention to the marginal read 
ings, I will remark that, if the Pharisees are right in sup 
posing them to have been ancient, and the work of the 
original scribes, we must perforce admit that these scribes 
(if there were more than one) set them down because they 
found that the text from which they were copying was 
inaccurate, and did yet not venture to alter what was 
written by their predecessors and superiors. I need not 
again go into the subject at length, and will, therefore, 
proceed to mention some discrepancies not noticed in the 

I. Some error has crept into the text of the second 
chapter of Ezra, for in verse 64 we are told that the total 
of all those mentioned in the rest of the chapter amounts 
to 42,360 ; but, when we come to add up the several items 
we get as result only 29,818. There must, therefore, be an 
error, either in the total, or in the details. The total is 
probably correct, for it would most likely be well known to 
all as a noteworthy thing ; but with the details, the case 
would be different. If, then, any error had crept into the 
total, it would at once have been remarked, and easily cor 
rected. This view is confirmed by Nehemiah vii., where 
this chapter of Ezra is mentioned, and a total is given in 
plain correspondence thereto ; but the details are altogether 
different some are larger, and some less, than those in 
Ezra, and altogether they amount to 31,089. We may, 
therefore, conclude that both in Ezra and in Nehemiah the 


details are erroneously given. The commentators who at 
tempt to harmonize these evident contradictions draw on 
their imagination, each to the best of his ability ; and while 
professing adoration for each letter and word of Scripture, 
only succeed in holding up the sacred writers to ridicule, as 
though they knew not how to write or relate a plain 
narrative. Such persons effect nothing but to render the 
clearness of Scripture obscure. If the Bible could every 
where be interpreted after their fashion, there would be no 
such thing as a rational statement of which the meaning 
could be relied on. However, there is no need to dwell on 
the subject; only I am convinced that if any historian 
were to attempt to imitate the proceedings freely attributed 
to the writers of the Bible, the commentators would cover 
him with contempt. If it be blasphemy to assert that 
there are any errors in Scripture, what name shall we apply 
to those who foist into it their own fancies, who degrade 
the sacred writers till they seem to write confused non 
sense, and who deny the plainest and most evident mean 
ings ? What in the whole Bible can be plainer than the 
fact that Ezra and his companions, in the second chapter 
of the book attributed to him, have given in detail the 
reckoning of all the Hebrews who set out with them for 
Jerusalem ? This is proved by the reckoning being given, 
not only of those who told their lineage, but also of those 
who were unable to do so. Is it not equally clear from 
Nehemiah vii. 5, that the writer merely there copies the list 
given in Ezra ? Those, therefore, who explain these pas 
sages otherwise, deny the plain meaning of Scripture nay, 
they deny Scripture itself. They think it pious to reconcile 
one passage of Scripture with another a pretty piety, for 
sooth, which accommodates the clear passages to the 
obscure, the correct to the faulty, the sound to the corrupt. 

Ear be it from me to call such commentators blasphe 
mers, if their motives be pure : for to err is human. But 
I return to my subject. 

Besides these errors in numerical details, there are others 
in the genealogies, in the history, and, I fear also in the 
prophecies. The prophecy of Jeremiah (chap, xxii.), con 
cerning Jechoniah, evidently does not agree with his history 
as given in 1 Chronicles iii, 17-19, and especially with the 


rds of the chapter, nor do I see how the prophecy, 
shalt die in peace," can be applied to Zedekiah, 

last words 

"thou shalt die in peaa 

whose eyes were dug out after his sons had been slain 

before him. If prophecies are to be interpreted by their 

issue, we must make a change of name, and read Jechoniah 

for Zedekiah, and vice versa. This, however, would be 

too paradoxical a proceeding; so I prefer to leave the 

matter unexplained, especially as the error, if error there 

be, must be set down to the historian, and not to any fault 

in the authorities. 

Other difficulties I will not touch upon, as I should only 
weary the reader, and, moreover, be repeating the remarks 
of other writers. For R. Selomo, in face of the manifest 
contradiction in the above-mentioned genealogies, is com 
pelled to break forth into these words (see his commentary 
on 1 Chron. viii.) : " Ezra (whom he supposes to be the 
author of the book of Chronicles) gives different names 
and a different genealogy to the sons of Benjamin from 
those which we find in Genesis, and describes most of the 
Levites differently from Joshua, because he found original 
discrepancies." And, again, a little later : " The genealogy 
of Gibeon and others is described twice in different ways, 
from different tables of each genealogy, and in writing 
them down Ezra adopted the version given in the majority 
of the texts, and when the authority was equal he gave 
both." Thus granting that these books were compiled from 
sources originally incorrect and uncertain. 

In fact the commentators, in seeking to harmonize dif 
ficulties, generally do no more than indicate their causes : 
for I suppose no sane person supposes that the sacred his 
torians deliberately wrote with the object of appearing to 
contradict themselves freely. 

Perhaps I shall be told that I am overthrowing the 
authority of Scripture, for that, according to me, anyone 
may suspect it of error in any passage ; but, on the con 
trary, I have shown that my object has been to prevent 
the clear and uncorrupted passages being accommodated 
to and corrupted by the faulty ones ; neither does the fact 
that some passages are corrupt warrant us in suspecting 
all. No book ever was completely free from faults, yet I 
would ask, who suspects all books to be everywhere faulty? 


Surely no one, especially when the phraseology is clear and 
the intention of the author plain. 

I have now finished the task I set myself with respect to 
the "books of the Old Testament. We may easily conclude 
from what has been said, that before the time of the Macca 
bees there was no canon of sacred books, 1 but that those 
which we now possess were selected from a multitude of 
others at the period of the restoration of the Temple by the 
Pharisees (who also instituted the set form of prayers), 
who are alone responsible for their acceptance. Those, 
therefore, who would demonstrate the authority of Holy 
Scripture, are bound to show the authority of each sepa 
rate book ; it is not enough to prove the Divine origin of a 
single book in order to infer the Divine origin of the rest. 
In that case we should have to assume that the council of 
Pharisees was, in its choice of books, infallible, and this 
could never be proved. I am led to assert that the Phari 
sees alone selected the books of the Old Testament, and in 
serted them in the canon, from the fact that in Daniel ii. is 
proclaimed the doctrine of the Eesurrection, which the 
Sadducees denied ; and, furthermore, the Pharisees plainly 
assert in the Talmud that they so selected them. For in 
the treatise of Sabbathus, chapter ii., folio 30, page 2, it is 
written: "R. Jehuda, surnamed Eabbi, reports that the 
experts wished to conceal the book of Ecclesiastes because 
they found therein words opposed to the law (that is, to 
the book of the law of Moses). Why did they not hide it ? 
Because it begins in accordance with the law, and ends 
according to the law ;" and a little further on we read : 
" They sought also to conceal the book of Proverbs." And 
in the first chapter of the same treatise, fol. 13, page 2 : 
" Verily, name one man for good, even he who was called 
Neghunja, the son of Hezekiah: for, save for him, the 
book of Ezckiel would been concealed, because it agreed 
not with the words of the law." 

It is thus abundantly clear that men expert in the law 
summoned a council to decide which books should be re 
ceived into the canon, and which excluded. If any man, 
therefore, wishes to be certified as to the authority of all 
the books, let him call a fresh council, and ask every 
member his reasons. 

1 Sec Note 23. 


The time has now come for examining in the same 
manner the books in the New Testament ; "but as I learn 
that the task has been already performed by men highly 
skilled in science and languages, and as I do not myself 
possess a knowledge of Greek sufficiently exact for the 
task ; lastly, as we have lost the originals of those books 
which were written in Hebrew, I prefer to decline the 
undertaking. However, I will touch on those points which 
have most bearing on my subject in the following chapter. 




NO reader of the New Testament can doubt that the 
Apostles were prophets ; but as a prophet does not 
always speak by revelation, but only at rare intervals, as 
we showed at the end of Chap. I., we may fairly inquire 
whether the Apostles wrote their Epistles as prophets, by 
revelation and express mandate, as Moses, Jeremiah, and 
others did, or whether only as private individuals or 
teachers, especially as Paul, in Corinthians xiv. 6, mentions 
two sorts of preaching. 

If we examine the style of the Epistles, we shall find it 
totally different from that employed by the prophets. 

The prophets are continually asserting that they speak 
by the command of God : " Thus saith the Lord," " The 
Lord of hosts saith," " The command of the Lord," &c. ; 
and this was their habit not only in assemblies of the pro 
phets, but also in their epistles containing revelations, as 
appears from the epistle of Elijah to Jehoram, 2 Chron. xxi. 
12, which begins, " Thus saith the Lord." 

In the Apostolic Epistles we find nothing of the sort. 
Contrariwise, in 1 Cor. vii. 40 Paul speaks according to his 
own opinion and in many passages we come across doubt 
ful and perplexed phrases, such as, " We think, therefore," 
Eoni. iii. 28 ; . " Now I think," 1 Eom. viii. 18, and so on. 
Besides these, other expressions are met with very different 
from those used by the prophets. For instance, 1 Cor. 
vii. 6, " But I speak this by permission, not by command 
ment;" I give my judgment as one that hath obtained mercy 
of the Lord to be faithful" (1 Cor. vii. 25), and so on in 
many other passages. We must also remark that in the 
1 See Note 24. 


aforesaid chapter the Apostle says that when he states that 
lie has or has not the precept or commandment of God, he 
does not mean the precept or commandment of God re 
vealed to himself, but only the words uttered by Christ in 
His Sermon on the Mount. Furthermore, if we examine 
the manner in which the Apostles give out evangelical doc 
trine, we shall see that it differs materially from the 
method adopted by the prophets. The Apostles everywhere 
reason as if they were arguing rather than prophesying ; 
the prophecies, on the other hand, contain only dogmas and 
commands. God is therein introduced not as sj -eating to 
reason, but as issuing decrees by His absolute Cat. The 
authority of the prophets does not submit to discussion, 
for whosoever wishes to find rational ground for his argu 
ments, by that very wish submits them to everyone s private 
judgment. This Paul, inasmuch as he uses reason, appears 
to have done, for he says in 1 Cor. x. 15, " I speak as to 
wise men, judge ye what I say." The prophets, as we 
showed at the end of Chapter I., did not perceive what was 
revealed by virtue of their natural reason, and though there 
are certain passages in the Pentateuch which seein to be 
appeals to induction, they turn out, on nearer examination, 
to be nothing but peremptory commands. For instance, 
when Moses says, Deut. xxxi. 27, " Behold, while I am yet 
alive with you, this day ye have been rebellious against the 
Lord ; and how much more after my death," we must by 
no means conclude that Moses wished to convince the 
Israelites by reason that they would necessarily fall away 
from the worship of the Lord after his death ; for the argu 
ment would have been false, as Scripture itself shows : the 
Israelites continued faithful during the lives of Joshua an ; 
the elders, and afterwards during the time of Samuci 
David, and Solomon. Therefore the words of Moses are 
merely a moral injunction, in which he predicts rhetorically 
the future backsliding of the people so as. to impress it 
vividly on their imaginations. I say that Moses spoke of 
himself in order to lend likelihood to his prediction, and 
not as a prophet by revelation, because in verse 21 of the 
same chapter we are told that God revealed the same thing 
to Moses in different words, and there was no need to make 
Moses certain by argument of God s prediction and decree ; 


it was only necessary that it should be vividly impressed 
on his imagination, and this could not be better accom 
plished than by imagining the existing contumacy of the 
people, of which he had had frequent experience, as likely 
to extend into the future. 

All the arguments employed by Moses in the five books 
are to be understood in a similar manner; they are not 
drawn from the armoury of reason, but are merely modes 
of expression calculated to instil with efficacy, and present 
vividly to the imagination the commands of God. 

However, I do not wish absolutely to deny that the 
prophets ever argued from revelation ; I only maintain that 
the prophets made more legitimate use of argument in pro 
portion as their knowledge approached more nearly to 
ordinary knowledge, and by this we know that they pos 
sessed a knowledge above the ordinary, inasmuch as they 
proclaimed absolute dogmas, decrees, or judgments. Thus 
Moses, the chief of the prophets, never used legitimate 
argument, and, on the other hand, the long deductions and 
arguments of Paul, such as we find in the Epistle to the 
Romans, are in nowise written from supernatural revelation. 

The modes of expression and discourse adopted by the 
Apostles in the Epistles, show very clearly that the latter 
were not written by revelation and Divine command, but 
merely by the natural powers and judgment of the authors. 
They consist in brotherly admonitions and courteous expres 
sions such as would never be employed in prophecy, as for 
instance, Paul s excuse in Romans xv. 15, " I have written 
the more boldly unto you in some sort, my brethren." 

"We may arrive at the same conclusion from observing 
that we never read that the Apostles were commanded to 
write, but only that they went everywhere preaching, and 
confirmed their words with signs. Their personal presence 
and signs were absolutely necessary for the conversion and 
establishment in religion of the Gentiles ; as Paul himself 
expressly states in Horn. i. 11, " But I long to see you, that 
I may impart to you some spiritual gift, to the end that ye 
may be established." 

It may be objected that w T e might prove in similar fashion 
that the Apostles did not preach as prophets, for they did 
not go to particular places, as the prophets did, by the 


command of God. We read in the Old Testament that 
Jonah went to Nineveh to preach, and at the same time that 
he was expressly sent there, and told that he must preach. 
So also it is related, at great length, of Moses that he went 
to Egypt as the messenger of God, and was told at the 
same time what he should say to the children of Israel and to 
king Pharaoh, and what wonders he should work before them 
to give credit to his words. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel 
were expressly commanded to preach to the Israelites. 

Lastly, the prophets only preached what we are assured 
l>y Scripture they had received from God, whereas this is 
hardly ever said of the Apostles in the New Testament, 
when they went about to preach. On the contrary, we find 
passages expressly implying that the Apostles chose the 
places where they should preach on their own responsibility, 
for there was a difference amounting to a quarrel between 
Paul and Barnabas on the subject (Acts xv. 37, 38). Often 
they wished to go to a place, but were prevented, as Paul 
writes, Eom. i. 13, " Oftentimes I purposed to come to you, 
but was let hitherto;" and in 1 Cor. xvi. 12, "As touching 
our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto 
you with the brethren, but his will was not at all to come 
at this time : but he will come when he shall have con- 
venient time." 

From these expressions and differences of opinion among 
the Apostles, and also from the fact that Scripture nowhere 
testifies of them, as of the ancient prophets, that they went 
by the command of God, one might conclude that they 
preached as well as wrote in their capacity of teachers, and 
not as prophets : but the question is easily solved if we 
observe the difference between the mission of an Apostle 
and that of an Old Testament prophet. The latter were not 
called to preach and prophesy to all nations, but to certain 
specified ones, and therefore an express and peculiar man 
date was required for each of them ; the Apostles, on the 
other hand, were called to preach to all men absolutelv, 
and to turn all men to religion. Therefore, whithersoever 
they went, they were fulfilling Christ s commandment; 
there was no need to reveal to them beforehand what they 
should preach, for they were the disciples of Christ to whom 
their Master Himself said (Matt. x. 19, 20) : " But, when 


they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall 
speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye 
shall speak." We therefore conclude that the Apostles 
were only indebted to special revelation in what they orally 
preached and confirmed by signs (see the beginning of 
Chap. II.) ; that which they taught in speaking or writing 
without any confirmatory signs and wonders they taught 
from their natural knowledge. (See 1 Cor. xiv. 6.) We 
need not be deterred by the fact that all the Epistles begin 
by citing the imprimatur of the Apostleship, for the 
Apostles, as I will shortly show, were granted, not only the 
faculty of prophecy, but also the authority to teach. We 
may therefore admit that they wrote their Epistles as 
Apostles, and for this cause every one of them began by 
citing the Apostolic imprimatur, possibly with a view to 
gaining the attention of the reader by asserting that they 
were the persons who had made such mark among the 
faithful by their preaching, and had shown by many mar 
vellous works that they were teaching true religion and the 
way of salvation. I observe that what is said in the 
Epistles with regard to the Apostolic vocation and the Holy 
Spirit of God which inspired them, has reference to their 
former preaching, except in those passages where the ex 
pressions of the Spirit of God and the Holy Spirit are used 
to signify a mind pure, upright, and devoted to God. For 
instance, in 1 Cor. vii. 40, Paul says : " But she is happier 
if she so abide, after my judgment, and I think also that I 
have the Spirit of God." By the Spirit of God the Apostle 
here refers to his mind, as we may see from the context : 
his meaning is as follows: "I account blessed a widow 
who does not wish to marry a second husband ; such is my 
opinion, for I have settled to live unmarried, and I think 
that I am blessed." There are other similar passages which 
I need not now quote. 

As we have seen that the Apostles wrote their Epistic* 
solely by the light of natural reason, we must inquire how 
they were enabled to teach by natural know lodge matters 
outside its scope. However, if we bear in mind v/liat we 
said in Chap. VII. of this treatise our difficulty wj.Jl vanish : 
for although the contents of the Bible entirely surpass our 
understanding, we may safely discourse of them, provided 


we assume nothing not told us in Scripture : by the same 
method the Apostles, from what they saw and heard, and 
from what was revealed to them, were enabled to form and 
elicit many conclusions which they would have been able to 
teach to men had it been permissible. 

Further, although religion, as preached by the Apostles, 
does not come within the sphere of reason, in so far as it 
consists in the narration of the life of Christ, yet its essence, 
which is chiefly moral, like the whole of Christ s doc 
trine, can readily be apprehended by the natural faculties 
of all. 

Lastly, the Apostles had no lack of supernatural illumi 
nation for the purpose of adapting the religion they had 
attested by signs to the understanding of everyone so that 
it might be readily received ; nor for exhortations on the 
subject: in fact, the object of the Epistles is to teach and 
exhort men to lead that manner of life which each of the 
Apostles judged best for confirming them in religion. 
We may here repeat our former remark, that the Apostles 
had received not only the faculty of preaching the history 
of Christ as prophets, and confirming it with signs, but 
also authority for teaching and exhorting according as each 
thought best. Paul (2 Tim. i. 11), " Whereunto I am 
appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of 
the Gentiles ; " and again (1 Tim. ii. 7), " Whereunto lam 
ordained a preacher and an apostle (I speak the truth in 
Christ and lie not), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and 
verity." These passages, I say, show clearly the stamp 
both of the apostleship and the teachership : the authority 
for admonishing whomsoever and wheresoever he pleased 
is asserted by Paul in the Epistle to Philemon, v. 8: 
" Wherefore, though I might be much bold in Christ to 
enjoin thee that which is convenient, yet," &c., where we 
may remark that if Paul had received from God as a 
prophet what he wished to enjoin Philemon, and had 
been bound to speak in his prophetic capacity, he would 
not have been able to change the command of God into 
entreaties. We must therefore understand him to refer to 
the permission to admonish which he had received as a 
teacher, and not as a prophet. We have not yet made it 
quite clear that the Apostles might each choose his own 


way of teaching, "but only that by virtue of their Apostle* 
ship they were teachers as well as prophets ; however, if we 
call reason to our aid we shall clearly see that an authority 
to teach implies authority to choose the method. It will 
nevertheless be, perhaps, more satisfactory to draw all our 
proofs from Scripture ; we are there plainly told that each 
Apostle chose his particular method (Rom. xv. 20) : " Yea, 
so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was 
named, lest I should build upon another man s foundation." 
If all the Apostles had adopted the same method of teaching, 
and had all built up the Christian religion on the same foun 
dation, Paul would have had no reason to call the work of a 
fellow- Apostle " another man s foundation," inasmuch as 
it would have been identical with his own : his calling it 
another man s proved that each Apostle built up his re 
ligious instruction on different foundations, thus resem 
bling other teachers who have each their own method, and 
prefer instructing quite ignorant people who have never 
learnt under another master, whether the subject be science, 
languages, or even the indisputable truths of mathematics. 
Furthermore, if we go through the Epistles at all atten 
tively, we shall see that the Apostles, while agreeing about 
religion itself, are at variance as to the foundations it rests 
on. Paul, in order to strengthen men s religion, and show 
them that salvation depends solely on the grace of God, 
teaches that no one can boast of works, but only of faith, 
and that no one can be justified by works (Rom. iii. 27, 28) ; 
in fact, he preaches the complete doctrine of predestination. 
James, on the other hand, states that man is justified by 
works, and not by faith only (see his Epistle, ii. 24), and 
omitting all the disputations of Paul, confines religion to a 
very few elements. 

Lastly, it is indisputable that from these different 
grounds for religion selected by the Apostles, many quarrels 
and schisms distracted the Church, even in the earliest 
times, and doubtless they will continue so to distract it 
for ever, or at least till religion is separated from philo 
sophical speculations, and reduced to the few simple doc 
trines taught by Christ to His disciples ; such a task was 
impossible for tlic Apostles, because the Gospel was then 
unknown to mankind, and lest its novelty should offend 


men s ears it had to be adapted to the disposition of con 
temporaries (2 Cor. ix. 19, 20), and built up on the ground 
work most familiar and accepted at the time. 

Thus none of the Apostles philosophized more than did 
Paul, who was called to preach to the Gentiles; other 
Apostles preaching to the Jews, who despised philosophy, 
similarly adapted themselves to the temper of their hearers 
(see Gal. ii. 11), and preached a religion free from all 
philosophical speculations. How blest would our age be 
if it could witness a religion freed also from all the tram 
mels of superstitionl 




who look upon the Bible as a message sent 
- down by God from Heaven to men, will doubtless cry 
out that I have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost 
because I have asserted that the Word of God is faulty, 
mutilated, tampered with, and inconsistent ; that we pos 
sess it only in fragments, and that the original of the 
covenant which God made with the Jews has been lost. 
However, I have no doubt that a little reflection will 
cause them to desist from their uproar: for not only 
reason but the expressed opinions of prophets and apostles 
openly proclaim that God s eternal Word and covenant, 
no less than true religion, is Divinely inscribed in human 
hearts, that is, in the human mind, and that this is the 
true original of God s covenant, stamped with His own 
seal, namely, the idea of Himself, as it were, with the 
image of His Godhood. 

Religion was imparted to the early Hebrews as a law 
written down, because they were at that time in the condi 
tion of children, but afterwards Moses (Deut. xxx. 6) and 
Jeremiah (xxxi. 33) predicted a time coming when the 
Lord should write His law in their hearts. Thus only the 
Jews, and amongst them chiefly the Sadducees, struggled 
for the law written on tablets ; least of all need those who 
bear it inscribed on their hearts join in the contest. Those, 
therefore, who reflect, will find nothing in what I have 
written repugnant either to the Word of God or to true 
religion and faith, or calculated to weaken either one or the 
other : contrariwise, they will see that I have strengthened 
religion, as I showed at the end of Chapter X. ; indeed, 


had it not been so, I should certainly have decided to hold 
my peace, nay, I would even have asserted as a way out of 
all difficulties that the Bible contains the most profound 
hidden mysteries ; however, as this doctrine has given rise 
to gross superstition and other pernicious results spoken 
of at the beginning of Chapter V., I have thought such a 
course unnecessary, especially as religion stands in no 
need of superstitious adornments, but is, on the contrary, 
deprived by such trappings of some of her splendour. 

Still, it will be said, though the law of God is written 
in the heart, the Bible is none the less the Word of God, 
and it is no more lawful to say of Scripture than of God s 
Word that it is mutilated and corrupted. I fear that such 
objectors are too anxious to be pious, and that they are 
in danger of turning religion into superstition, and wor 
shipping paper and ink in place of God s Word. 

I am certified of thus much : I have said nothing un 
worthy of Scripture or God s Word, and I have made no 
assertions which I could not prove by most plain argu 
ment to be true. I can, therefore", rest assured that I 
have advanced nothing which is impious or even savours 
of impiety. 

I confess that some profane men, 1o whom religion is a 
burden, may, from what I have said, assume a licence to 
sin, and without any reason, at the simple dictates of their 
lusts conclude that Scripture is everywhere faulty and 
falsified, and that therefore its authority is null ; but such 
men are beyond the reach of help, for nothing, as the pro 
verb lias it, can be said so rightly that it cannot be twisted 
into wrong. Those who wish to give rein to their lusts are 
at no loss for an excuse, nor were those men of old who 
possessed the original Scriptures, the ark of the covenant, 
nay, the prophets and apostles in person among them, any 
better than the people of to-day. Human nature, Jew as 
well as Gentile, has always been the same, and in every 
age virtue has been exceedingly rare. 

Nevertheless, to remove every scruple, I will here show 
in what sense the Bible or any inanimate thing should be 
called sacred and Divine ; also wherein the law of God con 
sists, and how it cannot be contained in a certain number 
of books ; and, lastly, I will show that Scripture, in so far 


as it teaches what is necessary for obedience and salvation, 
cannot have "been corrupted. From these considerations 
everyone will be able to judge that I have neither said 
anything against the Word of God nor given any foothold 
to impiety. 

A thing is called sacred and Divine when it is designed 
for promoting piety, and continues sacred so long as it is 
religiously used : if the users cease to be pious, the thing 
ceases to be sacred : if it be turned to base uses, that which 
was formerly sacred becomes unclean and profane. For 
instance, a certain spot was named by the patriarch Jacob 
the house of God, because he worshipped God there re 
vealed to him : by the prophets the same spot was called 
the house of iniquity (see Amos v. 5, and Hosea x. 5), 
because the Israelites were wont, at the instigation of 
Jeroboam, to sacrifice there to idols. Another example puts 
the matter in the plainest light. Words gain their meaning 
solely from their usage, and if they are arranged according 
to their accepted signification so as to move those who read 
them to devotion, they will become sacred, and the book so 
written will be sacred also. But if their usage afterwards 
dies out so that the words have no meaning, or the book 
becomes utterly neglected, whether from unworthy motives, 
or because it is no longer needed, then the words and the 
book will lose both their use and their sanctity : lastly, if 
these same words be otherwise arranged, or if their cus 
tomary meaning becomes perverted into its opposite, then 
both the words and the book containing them become, 
instead of sacred, impure and profane. 

From this it follows that nothing is in itself absolutely 
sacred, or profane, and unclean, apart from the mind, but 
only relatively thereto. Thus much is clear from many 
passages in the Bible. Jeremiah (to select one case out of 
many) says (chap. vii. 4), that the Jews of his time were 
wrong in calling Solomon s Temple, the Temple of God, for, 
as he goes on to say in the same chapter, God s name 
would only be given to the Temple so long as it was fre 
quented by men who worshipped Him, and defended jus 
tice, but that, if it became the resort of murderers, thieves, 
idolaters, and other wicked persons, it would be turned 
into a den of malefactors. 


Scripture, curiously enough, nowhere tells us what be- 
came of the Ark of the Covenant, though there is no doubt 
that it was destroyed, or burnt together with the Temple ; 
yet there was nothing which the Hebrews considered more 
sacred, or held in greater reverence. Thus Scripture is 
sacred, and its words Divine so long as it stirs mankind to 
devotion towards God : but if it be utterly neglected, as it 
formerly was by the Jews, it becomes nothing but paper 
and ink, and is left to be desecrated or corrupted : still, 
though Scripture be thus corrupted or destroyed, we must 
not say that the Word of God has suffered in like manner, 
else we shall be like the Jews, who said that the Temple 
which would then be the Temple of God had perished in 
the flames. Jeremiah tells us this in respect to the law, 
for he thus chides the ungodly of his time, "Wherefore 
say you we are masters, and the law of the Lord is with 
us ? Surely it has been given in vain, it is in vain that the 
pen of the scribes" (has been made) that is, you say 
falsely that the Scripture is in your power, and that you 
possess the law of God ; for ye have made it of none effect. 

So also, when Moses broke the first tables of the law, he 
did not by any means cast the Word of God from his hands 
in anger and shatter it such an action would be inconceiv 
able, either of Moses or of God s Word he only broke the 
tables of stone, which, though they had before been holy from 
containing the covenant wherewith the Jews had bound 
themselves in obedience to God, had entirely lost their 
sanctity when the covenant had been violated by the wor 
ship of the calf, and were, therefore, as liable to perish as 
the ark of the covenant. It is thus scarcely to be wondered 
at, that the original documents of Moses are no longer 
extant, nor that the books we possess met with the fate 
we have described, when we consider that the true original 
of the Divine covenant, the most sacred object of all, has 
totally perished. 

Let them cease, therefore, who accuse us of impiety, inas 
much as we have said nothing against the Word of God, 
neither have we corrupted it, but let them keep their anger, 
if they would wreak it justly, for the ancients whose malice 
desecrated the Ark, the Temple, and the Law of God, and all 
that was held sacred, subjecting them to corruption. Fur* 


therinore, if, according to the saying of the Apostle in 
2 Cor. iii. 3, they possessed " the Epistle of Christ, written 
nofc with ink, "hut with the Spirit of the living God, not in 
tables of stone, but in. the fleshy tables of the heart," let 
them cease to worship the letter, and be so anxious con 
cerning it. 

I think I have now sufficiently &{ own in what respect 
Scripture shouH be accounted sacred and Divine ; we may 
now see what should rightly be understood by the ex 
pression, the Word of the Lord; debar (the Hebrew original) 
signifies word, speech, command, and thing. The causes 
for which a thing is in Hebrew said to be of God, or is 
referred to Him, have been already detailed in Chap. I., 
and we can therefrom easily gather what meaning Scripture 
attaches to the phrases, the word, the speech, the command, 
or the thing of God. I need not, therefore, repeat what I 
there said, nor what was shown under the third head in 
the chapter on miracles. It is enough to mention the 
repetition for the better understanding of what I am about 
to say viz., that the Word of the Lord when it has reference 
to anyone but God Himself, signifies that Divine law 
treated of in Chap. IV. ; in other words, religion, universal 
and catholic to the whole human ra ce, as Isaiah describes 
it (chap. i. 10), teaching that the true way of life consists, 
not in ceremonies, but in charity, ind a true heart, and 
calling it indifferently God s Law ai,d God s Word. 

The expression is also used metaphorically for the order 
of nature and destiny (which, indeed, actually depend and 
follow from the eternal mandate of the Divine nature), and 
especially for such parts oi ! such order as were foreseen by 
the prophets, for the prophets did not perceive future events 
as the result of natural causes, but as the fiats and decrees 
of God. Lastly, it is employed for the command of any 
prophet, in so far as he had perceived it by his peculiar 
faculty or prophetic gift, and not by the natural light of 
reason ; this use springs chiefly from the usual prophetic 
conception of God as a legislator, which we remarked in 
Chap. IV. There are, then, three causes for the Bible s 
being called the Word of God : because it teaches true reli 
gion, of which God is the eternal Founder ; because it nar 
rates predictions of future events as though they were 


decrees of God ; because its actual authors generally per 
ceived things not by their ordinary natural faculties, but by 
a power peculiar to themselves, and introduced these things 
perceived, as told them by God. 

Although Scripture contains much that is merely histo 
rical and can be perceived by natural reason, yet its name 
is acquired from its chief subject matter. 

We can thus easily see how God can be said to be the 
Author of the Bible : it is because of the true religion therein 
contained, and not because He wished to communicate to 
men a certain number of books. We can also learn from 
hence the reason for the division into Old and New Testa 
ment. It was made because the prophets who preached 
religion before Christ, preached it as a national law in virtue 
of the covenant entered into under Moses ; while the 
Apostles who came after Christ, preached it to all men as a 
universal religion solely in virtue of Christ s Passion : the 
cause for the division is not that the two parts are different 
in doctrine, nor that they were written as originals of the 
covenant, nor, lastly, that the catholic religion (which is in 
entire harmony with our nature) was new except in relation 
to those who had not known it : " it was in the world," as 
John the Evangelist says, " and the world knew it not." 

Thus, even if we had fewer books of the Old and New 
Testament than we have, we should still not be deprived of 
the Word of God (which, as we have said, is identical with 
true religion), even as we do not now hold ourselves to be 
deprived of it, though we lack many cardinal writings such 
as the Book of the Law, which was religiouslv guarded in 
the Temple as the original of the Covenant, also the Book 
of Wars, the Book of Chronicles, and many others, from 
whence the extant Old Testament was taken and compiled. 
The above conclusion may be supported by many reasons. 

I. Because the books of both Testaments were not written 
by express command at one place for all ages, but are a for 
tuitous collection of the works of men, writing each as his 
period and disposition dictated. So much is clearly shown 
by the call of the prophets who were bade to admonish 
the ungodly of their time, and also by the Apostolic 

II. Because it is one thing to understand the meaning of 


Scripture and the prophets, and quite another thing to un 
derstand the meaning of God, or the actual truth. This 
follows from what we said in Chap. II. We showed, in 
Chap. VI., that it applied to historic narratives, and to 
miracles : but it by no means applies to questions concern 
ing true religion and virtue. 

III. Because the books of the Old Testament were selected 
from many, and were collected and sanctioned by a council 
of the Pharisees, as we showed in Chap. X. The books of 
the New Testament were also chosen from many by councils 
which rejected as spurious other books held sacred by 
many. But these councils, both Pharisee and Christian, 
were not composed of prophets, but only of learned men 
and teachers. Still, we must grant that they were guided 
in their choice by a regard for the Word of God ; and they 
must, therefore, have known what the law of God was. 

IV. Because the Apostles wrote not as prophets, but as 
teachers (see last Chapter), and chose whatever method 
they thought best adapted for those whom they addressed : 
and consequently, there are many things in the Epistles (as 
we showed at the end of the last Chapter) winch are not 
necessary to salvation. 

V. Lastly, because there are four Evangelists in the New 
Testament, and it is scarcely credible that God can have 
designed to narrate the life of Christ four times over, and 
to communicate it thus to mankind. For though there are 
some details related in one Gospel which are not in another, 
and one often helps us to understand another, we cannot 
thence conclude that all that is set down is of vital impor 
tance to us, and that God chose the four Evangelists in 
order that the life of Christ might be better understood ; 
for each one preached his Gospel in a separate locality, each 
wrote it down as he preached it, in simple language, in 
order that the history of Christ might be clearly told, not 
with any view of explaining his fellow-Evangelists. 

If there are some passages which can be better, and more 
easily understood by comparing the various versions, they 
are the result of chance, and are not numerous : their con 
tinuance in obscurity would have impaired neither the clear 
ness of the narrative nor the blessedness of mankind. 

We have now shown that Scripture can only be called 


the Word of God in so far as it affects religion, or the Divine 
law ; we must now point ont that, in respect to these ques 
tions, it is neither faulty, tampered with, nor corrupt. By 
faulty, tampered with, and corrupt, I here mean written so 
incorrectly that the meaning cannot be arrived at by a study 
of the language, nor from the authority of Scripture. I 
will not go to such lengths as to say that the Bible, in so far 
as it contains the Divine law, has always preserved the 
same vowel-points, the same letters, or the same words (I 
leave this to be proved by the Massoretes and other wor 
shippers of the letter), I only maintain that the meaning 
by which alone an utterance is entitled to be called Divine, 
has come down to us uncorrupted, even though the original 
wording may have been more often changed than we sup 
pose. Such alterations, as I have said above, detract 
nothing from the Divinity of the Bible, for the Bible would 
have been no less Divine had it been written in different 
words or a different language. That the Divine law has 
in this sense come down to us uncorrupted, is an assertion 
which admits of no dispute. For from the Bible itself we 
learn, without the smallest difficulty or ambiguity, that 
its cardinal precept is : To love God above all things, and 
one s neighbour as one s self. This cannot be a spurious 
passage, nor due to a hasty and mistaken scribe, for if 
the Bible had ever put forth a different doctrine it would 
have had to change the whole of. its teaching, for this is 
the corner-stone of religion, without which the whole fabric 
would fall headlong to the ground. The Bible would not 
be the work we have been examining, but something quite 

We remain, then, unshaken in our belief that this has 
always been the doctrine of Scripture, and, consequently, 
that no error sufficient to vitiate it can have crept in with, 
out being instantly observed by all ; nor can anyone have 
succeeded in tampering with it and escaped the discovery 
of his malice. 

As this corner-stone is intact, we must perforce admit the 
same of whatever other passages are indisputably depen 
dent on it, and are also fundamental, as, for instance, that 
a God exists, that He foresees all things, that He is Al 
mighty, that by His decree the good prosper and the wicked 


come to naught, and, finally, that our salvation depends 
solely on His grace. 

These are doctrines which Scripture plainly teaches 
throughout, and which it is bound to teach, else all the 
rest would be empty and baseless ; nor can we be less posi 
tive about other moral doctrines, which plainly are built 
upon this universal foundation for instance, to uphold 
justice, to aid the weak, to do no murder, to covet no man s 
goods, &c. Precepts, I repeat, such as these, human 
malice and the lapse of ages are alike powerless to destroy, 
for if any part of them perished, its loss would imme 
diately be supplied from the fundamental principle, espe 
cially the doctrine of charity, which is everywhere in both 
Testaments extolled above all others. Moreover, though it 
be true that there is no conceivable crime so heinous that 
it has never been committed, still there is no one who 
would attempt in excuse for his crimes to destroy the law, 
or introduce an impious doctrine in the place of what is 
eternal and salutary ; men s nature is so constituted that 
everyone (be he king or subject) who has committed a base 
action, tries to deck out his conduct with spurious excuses, 
till he seems to have done nothing but what is just and 

We may conclude, therefore, that the whole Divine law, 
as taught by Scripture, has come down to us uncorrupted. 
Besides this there are certain facts which we may be sure 
have been transmitted in good faith. For instance, the 
main facts of Hebrew history, which were perfectly well 
known to everyone. The Jewish people were accustomed 
in former times to chant the ancient history of their nation 
in psalms. The main facts, also, of Christ s life and pas 
sion were immediately spread abroad through the whole 
Eoman empire. It is therefore scarcely credible, unless 
nearly everybody consented thereto, which we cannot sup 
pose, that successive generations have handed down the 
broad outline of the Gospel narrative otherwise than as 
they received it. 

Whatsoever, therefore, is spurious or faulty can only 
have reference to details some circumstances in one or 
the other history or prophecy designed to stir the people 
to greater devotion ; or in some miracle, with a view o{ 


confounding philosophers ; or, lastly, in speculative matters 
after they had become mixed up with religion, so that some 
individual might prop up his own inventions with a pro- 
text of Divine authority. But such matters have little to 
do with salvation, whether they be corrupted little or much, 
as I will show in detail in the next chapter, though I think 
the question sufficiently plain from what I have said already, 
especially in Chapter IL 




T N" the second chapter of this treatise we pointed out that 
* the prophets were gifted with extraordinary powers of 
imagination, but not of understanding ; also that God only 
revealed to them such things as are very simple not philo 
sophic mysteries, and that He adapted His communica 
tions to their previous opinions. We further showed in 
Chap. V. that Scripture only transmits and teaches truths 
which can readily be comprehended by all ; not deducing 
and concatenating its conclusions from definitions and 
axioms, but narrating quite simply, and confirming its 
statements, with a view to inspiring belief, by an appeal to 
experience as exemplified in miracles and history, and set 
ting forth its truths in the style and phraseology which 
would most appeal to the popular mind (cf. Chap. VI. , third 

Lastly, we demonstrated in Chap. VLT. that the difficulty 
of understanding Scripture lies in the language only, and 
not in the abstruseness of the argument. 

To these considerations we may add that the Prophets 
did not preach only to the learned, but to all Jews, without 
exception, while the Apostles were wont to teach the gospel 
doctrine in churches where there were public meetings ; 
whence it follows that Scriptural doctrine contains no lofty 
speculations nor philosophic reasoning, but only very 
simple matters, such as could be understood by the slowest 

I am consequently lost in wonder at the ingenuity of 
those whom I have already mentioned, who detect in the 
Bible mysteries so profound that they cannot be explained 
in human language, and who have introduced so many 
philosophic speculations into religion that the Church 


seems like an academy, and religion like a science, or rather 
a dispute. 

It is not to be wondered at that men, who Loast of pos 
sessing supernatural intelligence, should be unwilling to 
yield the palm of knowledge to philosophers who have only 
their ordinary faculties ; still I should be surprised if I 
found them teaching any new speculative doctrine, which 
was not a commonplace to those Gentile philosophers 
whom, in spite of all, they stigmatize as blind ; for, if one 
inquires what these mysteries lurking in Scripture may be, 
one is confronted with nothing but the reflections of Plato 
or Aristotle, or the like, which it would often be easier for 
an ignorant man to dream than for the most accomplished 
scholar to wrest out of the Bible. 

However, I do not wish to affirm absolutely that Scrip 
ture contains no doctrines in the sphere of philosophy, for 
in the last chapter I pointed out some of the kind, as 
fundamental principles ; but I go so far as to say that such 
doctrines are very few and very simple. Their precise 
nature and definition I will now set forth. The task will 
be easy, for we know that Scripture does not aim at im 
parting scientific knowledge, and, therefore, it demands 
from men nothing but obedience, and censures obstinacy, 
but not ignorance. 

Furthermore, as obedience to God consists solely in love 
to our neighbour for whosoever loveth his neighbour, as 
a means of obeying God, hath, as St. Paul says (Rom. xiii. 
8), fulfilled the law, it follows that no knowledge is com 
mended in the Bible save that w^hich is necessary for 
enabling all men to obey God in the manner stated, and 
without which they would become rebellious, or without the 
discipline of obedience. 

Other speculative questions, which have no direct bear 
ing on this object, or are concerned with the knowledge of 
natural events, do not affect Scripture, and should be 
entirely separated from religion. 

Now, though everyone, as we have said, is now quite 
able to see tins truth for himself, I should nevertheless 
wish, considering that the whole of Religion depends 
thereon, to explain the entire question more accurately and 
clearly. To this end I must first prove that the intellectual 


or accurate knowledge of God is not a gift, bestowed upon 
all good men like obedience ; and, further, that the know 
ledge of God, required by Him through His prophets from 
everyone without exception, as needful to be known, is 
simply a knowledge of His Divine justice and charity. 
Both these points are easily proved from Scripture. The 
first plainly follows from Exodus vi. 2, where God, in order 
to show the singular grace bestowed upon Moses, says to 
him: "And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and 
unto Jacob by the name of El Sadai (A. V. God Almighty) ; 
but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them " for 
the better understanding of which passage I may remark 
that El Sadai, in Hebrew, signifies the God who suffices, in 
that He gives to every man that which suffices for him ; 
and, although Sadai is often used by itself, to signify God, 
we cannot doubt that the word El (God) is everywhere 
understood. Furthermore, we must note that Jehovah is 
the only word found in Scripture with the meaning of the 
absolute essence of God, without reference to created 
things. The Jews maintain, for this reason, that this is, 
strictly speaking, the only name of God ; that the rest of 
the words used are merely titles ; and, in truth, the other 
names of God, whether they be substantives or adjectives, 
are merely attributive, and belong to Him, in so far as He 
is conceived of in relation to created things, or manifested 
through them. Thus El, or Eloah, signifies powerful, as is 
well known, and only applies to God in respect to His 
supremacy, as when we call Paul an apostle ; the faculties 
of his power are set forth in an accompanying adjective, as 
El, great, awful, just, merciful, &c., or else all are under 
stood at once by the use of El in the plural number, with a 
singular signification, an expression frequently adopted in 

Now, as God tells Moses that He was not known to the 
patriarchs by the name of Jehovah, it follows that they 
were not cognizant of any attribute of God which expresses 
His absolute essence, but only of His deeds and promises 
that is, of His power, as manifested in visible things. God 
does not thus speak to Moses in order to accuse the patri 
archs of infidelity, but, on the contrary, as a means of ex 
tolling their belief and faith, inasmuch as, though they 



possessed no extraordinary knowledge of God (such as 
Moses had), they yet accepted His promises as fixed and 
certain ; whereas Moses, though his thoughts about God 
were more exalted, nevertheless doubted about the Divine 
promises, and complained to God that, instead of the pro 
mised deliverance, the prospects of the Israelites had 

As the patriarchs did not know the distinctive name of 
God, and as God mentions the fact to Moses, in praise of 
their faith and single-heartedness, and in contrast to the 
extraordinary grace granted to Moses, it follows, as we 
stated at first, that men are not bound by decree to have 
knowledge of the attributes of God, such knowledge being 
only granted to a few of the faithful : it is hardly worth 
while to quote further examples from Scripture, for every 
one must recognize that knowledge of God is not equal 
among all good men. Moreover, a man cannot be ordered 
to be wise any more than he can be ordered to live and 
exist. Men, women, and children are all alike able to obey 
by commandment, but not to be wise. If any tell us 
that it is not necessary to understand the Divine attributes, 
but that we must believe them simply without proof, ho 
is plainly trifling. For what is invisible and can only bo 
perceived by the mind, cannot be apprehended by any 
other means than proofs; if these are absent the object re 
mains ungrasped ; the repetition of what has been heard on 
such subjects 110 more indicates or attains to their moaning 
than the words of a parrot or a puppet speaking without 
sense or signification. 

Before I proceed I ought to explain how it comes that we 
are often told in Genesis that the patriarchs preached in 
the name of Jehovah, this being in plain contradiction to 
the text above quoted. A reference to what was said in 
Chap. VIII. will readily explain the difficulty. It was 
there shown that the writer of the Pentateuch did not 
always speak of things and places by the names they bore 
in the times of which lie was writing, but by the names best 
known to his contemporaries. God is thus said in the 
Pentateuch to have been preached by the patriarchs under 
t he name of Jehovah, not because such was the name by 
which the patriarchs knew Him, but because this name was 


the one most reverenced by the Jews. This point, I say, 
must necessarily be noticed, for in Exodus it is expressly 
stated that God was not known to the patriarchs by this 
name ; and in chap. iii. 13, it is said that Moses desired to 
know the name of God. Now, if this name had been al 
ready known it would have been known to Moses. We 
must therefore draw the conclusion indicated, namely, that 
the faithful patriarchs did not know this name of God, and 
that the knowledge of God is bestowed and not commanded 
by the Deity. 

It is now time to pass on to our second point, and show 
that God through His prophets required from men no other 
knowledge of Himself than is contained in a knowledge of 
His justice and charity that is, of attributes which a certain 
manner of life will enable men to imitate. Jeremiah states 
this in so many words (xxii. 15, 16) : " Did not thy father 
eat, and drink, and do judgment and justice? and then it 
was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and 
needy ; then it was well with him : was not this to know 
Me ? saith the Lord." The words in chap. ix. 24 of the 
same book are equally clear. " But let him that glorieth 
glory in this, that he understandeth and kiioweth Me, that 
I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, 
and righteousness in the earth ; for in these things I de 
light, saith the Lord." The same doctrine maybe gathered 
from Exod. xxxiv. 6, where God revealed to Moses only 
those of His attributes which display the Divine justice and 
charity. Lastly, we may call attention to a passage in 
John which we shall discuss at more length hereafter ; the 
Apostle explains the nature of God (inasmuch as 110 one 
has beheld Him) through charity only, and concludes that 
he who possesses charity possesses, and in very truth knows 

We have thus seen that Moses, Jeremiah, and John sum 
up in a very short compass the knowledge of God needful 
for all, and that they state it to consist in exactly what we 
said, namely, that God is supremely just, and supremely 
merciful in other words, the one perfect pattern of the true 
life. We may add that Scripture nowhere gives an express 
definition of God, and does not point out any other of His 
attributes which should be apprehended save these, nor 



docs it in sot terms praise any others. Wherefore we may 
draw the general conclusion that an intellectual knowledge 
of God, which takes cognizance of His nature in so far as 
it cactually is, and which cannot by any manner of living be 
imitated by mankind or followed as an example, has no 
bearing whatever on true rules of conduct, on faith, or on 
revealed religion ; consequently that men may be in com 
plete error on the subject without incurring the charge of 
sinfulness. We need now 110 longer wonder that ^God 
adapted Himself to the existing opinions and imaginations 
of the prophets, or that the faithful held different ideas of 
God, as we showed in Chap. II. ; or, again, that the sacred 
books speak very inaccurately of God, attributing to Him 
hands, feet, eyes, ears, a mind, and motion from one place 
to another ; or that they ascribe to Him emotions, such as 
jealousy, mercy, &c., or, lastly, that they describe Him as 
a Judge in heaven sitting on a royal throne with Christ on 
His right hand. Such expressions are adapted to the under 
standing of the multitude, it being the object of the Bible 
to make men not learned but obedient. 

In spite of this the general run of theologians, when 
they come upon any of these phrases which they cannot 
rationally harmonize with the Divine nature, maintain that 
they should be interpreted metaphorically, passages they 
cannot understand they say should be interpreted literally. 
But if every expression of this kind in the Bible is neces 
sarily to be interpreted and understood metaphorically, 
Scripture must have been written, not for the people and 
the unlearned masses, but chiefly for accomplished experts 
and philosophers. 

It it were indeed a sin to hold piously and simply the 
ideas about God we have just quoted, the prophets ou^ht 
to have been strictly on their guard against the use of 
such expressions, seeing the weak-mindedness of the people, 
and ought, on the oilier hand, to have set, forth first of all, 
duly and dearly, those attributes of God which are needful 
to be understood. 

This they have nowhere done; we cannot, therefore, 
think that opinions taken in themselves without respect to 
actions are either pious or impious, but must maintain that 
a man is pious or impious in his beliefs only in so far as 


he is thereby incited to obedience, or derives from them 
license to sin and rebel. If a man, by believing what is 
true, becomes rebellious, his creed is impious ; if by be 
lieving what is false he becomes obedient, his creed is 
pious ; for the true knowledge of God comes not by com 
mandment, bui by Divine gift. God has required nothing 
from man but a knowledge of His Divine justice and 
charity, and thar not as necessary to scientific accuracy, 
but to obedience 





T7 OR t a true knowledge of faith it is above all things 
necessary to understand that the Bible was adapted 
to the intelligence, not only of the prophets, hut also of 
the diverse and fickle Jewish multitude. This will be 
recognized by all who give any thought to the subject, for 
they will sec that a person who accepted promiscuously 
everything in Scripture as being the universal and abso 
lute teaching of God, without accurately defining what 
was adapted to the popular intelligence, would find it 
impossible to escape confounding the opinions of the masses 
with the Divine doctrines, praising the judgments and 
comments of man as the teaching of God, and making a 
wrong use of Scriptural authority. Who, I say, does not 
perceive that this is the chief reason why so many sectaries 
teach contradictory opinions as Divine documents, and 
support their contentions with numerous Scriptural texts, 
till it lias passed in Belgium into a proverb, yeen ketter 
sondcr letter no heretic without a text? The sacred books 
were not written by one man, nor for the people of a single 
period, but by many authors of different temperaments, at 
times extending from first to last over nearly two thousand 
years, and perhaps much longer. We will not, however, 
accuse the sectaries of impiety because they have adapted 
the words of Scripture to their own opinions ; it is thus 
that these words were adapted to the understanding of 
the masses originally, and everyone is at liberty so to 
treat, them if he sees that he can thus obey God in matters 
relating to justice and charity with a more full consent : 
but we do accuse those who will not grant this freedom 
to their fellows, but who persecute all who differ from 


them, as God s enemies, however honourable and virtuous 
be their lives ; while, on the other hand, they cherish those 
who agree with them, however foolish they may be, as 
God s elect. Such conduct is as wicked and dangerous to 
the state as any that can be conceived. 

In order, therefore, to establish the limits to which indi 
vidual freedom should extend, and to decide what persons, 
in spite of the diversity of their opinions, are to be looked 
upon as the faithful, we must define faith and its essentials. 
This task I hope to accomplish in the present chapter, and 
also to separate faith from philosophy, which is the chief 
aim of the whole treatise. 

In order to proceed duly to the demonstration let us 
recapitulate the chief aim and object of Scripture ; this 
will indicate a standard by which we may define faith. 

We have said in a former chapter that the aim and 
object of Scripture is only to teach obedience. Thus much, 
I think, no one can question. Who does not see that both 
Testaments are nothing else but schools for this object, 
and have neither of them any aim beyond inspiring man- 
. kind with a voluntary obedience ? For (not to repeat 
what I said in the last chapter) I will remark that Moses 
did not seek to convince the Jews by reason, but bound 
them by a covenant, by oaths, and by conferring benefits ; 
J further, he threatened the people with punishment if they 
should infringe the law, and promised rewards if they 
should obey it. All these are not means for teaching 
knowledge, but for inspiring obedience. The doctrine of 
the Gospels enjoins nothing but simple faith, namely, to 
believe in God and to honour Him, which is the same thing 
as to obey Him. There is no occasion for me to throw 
further light on a question so plain by citing Scriptural 
texts commending obedience, such as may be found in great 
numbeis in both Testaments. Moreover, the Bible teaches 
very clearly in a great many passages what everyone 
ought to do in order to obey God ; the whole duty is 
summed up in love to one s neighbour. It cannot, there 
fore, be denied that he who by God s command loves his 
neighbour as himself is truly obedient and blessed accord 
ing to the law, whereas he who hates his neighbour or 
aeglects him is rebellious and obstinate. 


Lastly, it is plain to everyone that the Bible was not 
written and disseminated only for -the learned, "but for 
men of every age and race ; wherefore we may rest assured 
that we are not bound by Scriptural command to believe 
anything beyond what is absolutely necessary for fulfilling 
its main precept. 

This precept, then, is the only standard of the whole 
Catholic faith, and by it alone all the dogmas needful to be 
believed should be determined. So much being abundantly 
manifest, as is also the fact that all other doctrines of the 
faith can be legitimately deduced therefrom by reason alone, 
I leave it to every man to decide for himself how it comes 
to pass that so many divisions have arisen in the Church : 
can it be from any other cause than those suggested at the 
beginning of Chap. VII. ? It is these same causes which 
compel me to explain the method of determining the dogmas 
of the faith from the foundation we have discovered, for if 
I neglected to do so, and put the question on a regular 
basis, I might justly be said to have promised too lavishly, 
for that anyone might, by my showing, introduce any doc 
trine he liked into religion, under the pretext that it was a 
necessary means to obedience : especially would this be the 
case in questions respecting the Divine attributes. 

In order, therefore, to set forth the whole matter metho 
dically, I will begin with a definition of faith, which on the 
principle above given, should be as follows : 

Faith consists in a knowledge of God, without which 
obedience to Him would be impossible, and which the mere 
fact of obedience to Him implies. This definition is so 
clear, and follows so plainly from what we have already 
proved, that it needs no explanation. The consequences 
involved therein I will now briefly show. (1.) Faith is not 
salutary in itself, but only in respect to the obedience it 
implies, or as James puts it in his Epistle, ii. 17, "Faith 
without works is dead " (see the whole of the chapter 
quoted). (II.) He who is truly obedient necessarily possesses 
true and saving faith ; for if obedience be granted, faith 
must be granted also, as the same Apostle expressly says in 
these words (ii. 18), " Show me thy faith without thy works, 
and I will show thee my faith by my works." So also John, 
1 Ep. iv. 7: "Everyone that loveth is born of God, and 


knoweth God : he that loveth not, knoweth not God ; for 
God is love." From these texts, I repeat, it follows that we 
can only judge a man faithful or unfaithful by his works. 
If his works be good, he is faithful, however much his doc 
trines may differ from those of the rest of the faithful : if 
his works be evil, though he may verbally conform, he is 
unfaithful. For obedience implies faith, and faith without 
works is dead. 

John, in the 13th verse of the chapter above quoted, ex 
pressly teaches the same doctrine: "Hereby," he says, 
" know we that we dwell in Him and He in us", because He 
hath given us of His Spirit," i.e. love. He had said before 
that God is love, and therefore he concludes (on his own 
received principles), that whoso possesses love possesses 
truly the Spirit of God. As no one has beheld God he 
infers that no one has knowledge or consciousness of God, 
except from love towards his neighbour, and also that no 
one can have knowledge of any of God s attributes, except 
this of love, in so far as we participate therein. 

If these arguments are not conclusive, they, at any rate, 
show the Apostle s meaning, but the words in chap. ii. v. 
3, 4, of the same Epistle are much clearer, for they state in 
so many words our precise contention : " And hereby we 
do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 
He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His command 
ments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." 

From all this, I repeat, it follows that they are the true 
enemies of Christ who persecute honourable and justice- 
loving men because they differ from them, and do not 
uphold the same religious dogmas as themselves : for who 
soever loves justice and charity we know, by that very fact, 
to be faithful: whosoever persecutes the faithful, is an 
enemy to Christ. 

Lastly, it follows that faith does not demand that 
dogmas should be true as that they should be pious that 
is, such as will stir up the heart to obey ; though there be 
many such which contain not a shadow of truth, so long as 
they beheld in good faith, otherwise their adherents are 
disobedient, for how can anyone, desirous of loving justice 
and obeying God, adore as Divine what he knows to be 
alien from the Divine nature ? However, men may err from 


simplicity of mind, and Scripture, as we Lave soon, does 
not condemn ignorance, "but obstinacy. This is the neces 
sary result of our definition of faith, and all its branches 
should spring from the universal rule above given, and 
from the evident aim and object of the Bible, unless we 
choose to mix our own inventions therewith. Thus it is 
not true doctrines which are expressly required by the Bible, 
so much as doctrines necessary for obedience, and to con 
firm in our hearts the love of our neighbour, wherein (to 
adopt the words of John) we are in God, and God in us. 

As, then, each man s faith must be judged pious or im 
pious only in respect of its producing obedience or obstinacy, 
and not in respect of its truth ; and as no one will dispute 
that men s dispositions are exceedingly varied, that all do 
not acquiesce in the same things, but are ruled some by 
one opinion some by another, so that what moves one to 
devotion moves another to laughter and contempt, it follows 
that there can be no doctrines in the Catholic, or universal, 
religion, which can give rise to controversy among good 
men. Such doctrines might be pious to some and impious 
to others, whereas they should be judged solely by their 

To the universal religion, then, belong only such dogmas 
as are absolutely required in order to attain obedience to 
God, and without which such obedience would be impos 
sible ; as for the rest, each man seeing that he is the best 
judge of his own character should adopt whatever ho 
thinks best adapted to strengthen liis love of justice. If 
this were so, I think there would be no further occasion 
for controversies in the Church. 

I have now no further fear in enumerating the dog 
mas of universal faith or the fundamental dogmas of the 
whole of Scripture, inasmuch as they all tend (as may be 
seen from what has been said) to this one doctrine, namely, 
that there exists a God, that is, a Supreme Being, Who loves 
justice and charity, and Who must be obeyed by whosoever 
would be saved ; that the worship of this Being consists in 
the practice of justice and love towards one s neighbour, and 
that they contain nothing beyond the following doctrines : 

I. That God or a Supreme Being exists, sovereignly just 
and merciful, the Exemplar of the true life ; that whosoever 


is ignorant of or disbelieves in His existence cannot obey 
Him or know Him as a Judge. 

II. That He is One. Nobody will dispute that this 
doctrine is absolutely necessary for entire devotion, admira 
tion, and love towards God. For devotion, admiration, and 
love spring from the superiority of one over all else. 

III. That He is omnipresent, or that all things are open 
to Him, for if anything could be supposed to be concealed 
from Him, or to be unnoticed by Him, we might doubt or 
be ignorant of the equity of His judgment as directing all 

IV. That He has supreme right and dominion over all 
things, and that He does nothing under compulsion, but 
by His absolute fiat and grace. All things are bound to 
obey Him, He is not bound to obey any. 

V. That the worship of God consists only in justice and 
charity, or love towards one s neighbour. 

VI. That all those, and those only, who -obey God by 
their manner of life are saved ; the rest of mankind, who 
live under the sway of their pleasures, are lost. If we did 
not believe this, there would be no reason for obeying God 
rather than pleasure. 

VII. Lastly, that God forgives the sins of those who re 
pent. No one is free from sin, so that without this belief 
all would despair of salvation, and there would be no 
reason for believing in the mercy of God. He who firmly 
believes that God, out of the mercy and grace with which 
He directs all things, forgives the sins of men, and who 
feels his love of God kindled thereby, he, I say, does really 
know Christ according to the Spirit, and Christ is in him. 

No one can deny that all these doctrines are before all 
things necessary to be believed, in order that every man, 
without exception, may be able to obey God according to 
the bidding of the Law above explained, for if one of these 
precepts be disregarded obedience is destroyed. But as to 
what God, or the Exemplar of the true life, may be, whether 
fire, or spirit, or light, or thought, or what not, this, I say, 
has nothing to do with faith any more than has the ques* 
tion how He comes to be the Exemplar of the true life, 
whether it be because He has a just and merciful mind, or 
because all things exist and act through Him, and conse- 


quently tliat we understand through Him, and through 
Him see what is truly just and good. Everyone may think 
on such questions as he likes, 

Furthermore, faith is not affected, whether we hold that 
God is omnipresent essentially or potentially; that He 
directs all things by absolute fiat, or by the necessity of 
His nature ; that He dictates laws like a prince, or that He 
sets them forth as eternal truths ; that man obeys Him by 
virtue of free will, or by virtue of the necessity of the 
Divine decree ; lastly, that the reward of the good and the 
punishment of the wicked is natural or supernatural: 
these and such like questions have no bearing on faith, 
except in so far as they are used as means to give us 
license to sin more, or to obey God less. I will go further, 
and maintain that every man is bound to adapt these 
dogmas to his own way of thinking, and to interpret them 
according as he feels that he can give them his fullest and 
most unhesitating assent, so that he may the more easily 
obey God with his whole heart. 

Such was the manner, as we have already pointed out, in 
which the faith was in old time revealed and written, in 
accordance with the understanding and opinions of the 
prophets and people of the period ; so, in like fashion, 
every man is bound to adapt it to his own opinions, so that 
he may accept it without any hesitation or mental repug 
nance. We have shown that faith does not so much re 
quire truth as piety, and that it is only quickening an I 
pious through obedience, consequently no one is faithful 
save by obedience alone. The best faith is not necessarily 
possessed by him who displays the best reasons, but by 
him who displays the best fruits of justice and charity. 
How salutary and necessary this doctrine is for a state, in 
order that men may dwell together in peace and concord ; 
and how many and how great causes of disturbance and 
crime are thereby cut off, I leave everyone to judge for 
himself ! 

liefore we go further, I may remark that we can, by 
means of what we have just proved, easily answer the 
objections raised in Chap. I., when we were discussing 
God s speaking with the Israelites on Mount Sinai. For, 
though the voice heard by the Israelites could not give 


tliose men any pliilosopliical or mathematical certitude ^ of 
God s existence, it was yet sufficient to thrill them with 
admiration for God, as they already knew Him, and to stir 
them up to obedience : and such was the object of the dis 
play. God did not wish to teach the Israelites the absolute 
attributes of His essence (none of which He then revealed), 
but to break down their hardness of heart, and to draw 
them to obedience : therefore He did not appeal to them 
with reasons, but with the sound of trumpets, thunder, 
and lightnings. 

It remains for me to show that between faith or theology, 
and philosophy, there is no connection, nor affinity. I think 
no one will dispute the fact who has knowledge of the aim 
and foundations of the two subjects, for they are as wide 
apart as the poles. 

Philosophy has no end in view save truth : faith, as we 
have abundantly proved, looks for nothing but obedience 
and piety. Again, philosophy is based on axioms which 
must be sought from nature alone : faith is based on his 
tory and language, and must be sought for only in Scripture 
and revelation, as we showed in Chap. VII. Faith, there 
fore, allows the greatest latitude in philosophic speculation, 
allowing us without blame to think what we like about 
anything, and only condemning, as heretics and schismatics, 
those who teach opinions which tend to produce obstinacy, 
hatred, strife, and anger; while, on the other hand, only 
considering as faithful those who persuade us, as ^ far as 
their reason and faculties will permit, to follow justice and 

Lastly, as what we are now setting forth are the most 
important subjects of my treatise, I would most urgently 
beg the reader, before I proceed, to read these two chapters 
with especial attention, and to take the trouble to weigh 
them well in his mind: let him take for granted that I 
have not written with a view to introducing novelties, but 
in order to do away with abuses, such as I hopo I may, at 
some future time, at last see reformed. 




T^HOSE who know not that philosophy and reason arc dis- 
J- tinct, dispute whether Scripture should Le made sub 
servient to reason, or reason to Scripture: that is, whether 
the meaning of Scripture should "be made to agreed with 
reason ; or whether reason should be made to agree with 
Scripture: the latter position is assumed by the sceptics 
who deny the certitude of reason, the former l.y the dog 
matists. Both parties are, as I have shown, utterly in the 
wrong, for either doctrine would require us to tamper with 
reason or with Scripture. 

We have shown that Scripture does not teach philosophy, 
but merely obedience, and that all it contains has been 
adapted to the understanding and established opinions of 
the multitude. Those, therefore, who wish to adapt it to 
philosophy, must needs ascribe to the prophets many ideas 
which they never even dreamed of, and give an extremely 
forced interpretation to their words: those on the other 
hand, who would make reason and philosophy subservient 
to theology, will be forced to accept as Divine utterances 
the prejudices of the ancient Jews, and to fill and confuse 
their mind therewith. In short, one party will run wild 
with the aid of reason, and the other will run wild without 
the aid of reason. 

The first among the Pharisees who openly maintained 
that Scripture should be made to agree with reason, was 
Maimonides, whose opinion wo reviewed, and abundantly 
refuted in Chap. VII. : now, although this writer had much 
authority among bis contemporaries, lie was deserted on 
this question by almost all, and the majority went straight 


over to the opinion of a certain E. Jehuda Alpakhar, who, 
in his anxiety to avoid the error of Maimonides, fell into 
another, which was its exact contrary. He held that reason 
should be made subservient, and entirely give way to 
Scripture. He thought that a passage should not be inter 
preted metaphorically, simply because it was repugnant to 
reason, but only in the cases when it is inconsistent with 
Scripture itself that is, with its clear doctrines. Therefore 
he laid down the universal rule, that whatsoever Scripture 
teaches dogmatically, and affirms expressly, must 011 its 
own sole authority be admitted as absolutely true : that 
there is no doctrine in the Bible which directly contradicts 
the general tenour of the whole : but only some which 
appear to involve a difference, for the phrases of Scripture 
often seem to imply something contrary to what has been 
expressly taught. Such phrases, and such phrases only, 
we may interpret metaphorically. 

For instance, Scripture clearly teaches the unity of God 
(see Deut. vi. 4), nor is there any text distinctly asserting a 
plurality of gods ; but in several passages God speaks of 
Himself, and the prophets speak of Him, in the plural 
number; such phrases are simply a manner of speaking, 
and do not mean that there actually are several gods : 
they are to be explained metaphorically, not because a 
plurality of gods is repugnant to reason, but because 
Scripture distinctly asserts that there is only one. 

So, again, as Scripture asserts (as Alpakhar thinks) in 
Deut. iv. 15, that God is incorporeal, we are bound, solely 
by the authority of this text, and not by reason, to believe 
that God has no body: consequently we must explain 
metaphorically, on the sole authority of Scripture, all those 
passages which attribute to God hands, feet, &c., and take 
them merely as figures of speech. Such is the opinion of 
Alpakhar. In so far as he seeks to explain Scripture by 
Scripture, I praise him, but I marvel that a man gifted 
with reason should wish to debase that faculty. It is true 
that Scripture should be explained by Scripture, so long as 
we are in difficulties about the meaning and intention of 
the prophets, but when we have elicited the true meaning, 
we must of necessity make use of our judgment and reason 
in order to assent thereto. If reason, however, much as 


she rebels, is to be entirely subjected to Scripture, I ask, 
are we to effect her submission by her own aid, or without 
her, and blindly ? If the latter, we shall surely act fool 
ishly and injudiciously ; if the former, we assent to Scrip 
ture under the dominion of reason, and should not assent 
to it without her. Moreover, I may ask now, is a man to 
assent to anything against his reason? What is denial i 
it be not reason s refusal to assent ? In short, I am asto 
nished that anyone should wish to subject reason, the 
greatest of gifts and a light from on high, to the dead letter 
which may have been corrupted by human malice ; that it 
should be thought no crime to speak with contempt of 
mind, the true handwriting of God s Word, calling it cor 
rupt, blind, and lost, while it is considered the greatest of 
crimes to say the same of the letter, which is merely the 
reflection and image of God s Word. Men think it pious to 
trust nothing to reason and their own judgment, and 
impious to doubt the faith of those who have transmitted 
to us the sacred books. Such conduct is not piety, but 
lucre folly. And, after all, why are they so anxious ? *What 
are they afraid of? Do they think that faith and religion 
cannot be upheld unless men purposely keep themselves in 
ignorance, and turn their backs on reason ? If this be so, 
they have but a timid trust in Scripture. 

However, be it far from me to say that religion should 
seek to enslave reason, or reason religion, or that both 
should not be able to keep their sovereignly in perfect 
harmony. I will revert to this question presently, for I wish 
now to discuss Alpakhar s rule. 

He requires, as we have stated, that we should accept as 
true, or reject as false, everything asserted or denied by 
Scripture, and he further states that Scripture never ex 
pressly asserts or denies anything which contradicts its 
assertions or negations elsewhere. The rashness of such 
a requirement and statement can escape no one. For (pass 
ing over the fact that he does nut notice that Scrip! nre 
consists of different books, written at different times, for 
different people, by different authors: and also that his 
requirement is made on his own authority without any 
corroboration from reason or Scripture) he would be bound 
to show that all passages which are indirectly contradictory 


of the rest, can be satisfactorily explained metaphorically 
through the nature of the language and the context : fur 
ther, that Scripture has come down to us untampered 
with. However, we will go into the matter at length. 

Firstly, I ask what shall we do if reason prove recalci 
trant ? Shall we still be bound to affirm whatever Scrip 
ture affirms, and to deny whatever Scripture denies ? Per 
haps it will be answered that Scripture contains nothing 
repugnant to reason. But I insist that it expressly affirms 
and teaches that God is jealous (namely, in the decalogue 
itself, and in Exod. xxxiv. 14, and in Deut. iv. 24, and in 
many other places), and I assert that such a doctrine is 
repugnant to reason. It must, I suppose, in spite of all, be 
accepted as true. If there are any passages in Scripture 
which imply that God is not jealous, they must be taken 
metaphorically as meaning nothing of the kind. So, also, 
Scripture expressly states (Exod. xix. 20, &c.) that God 
came down to Mount Sinai, and it attributes to Him other 
movements from place to place, nowhere directly stating 
that God does not so move. Wherefore, we must take the 
passage literally, and Solomon s words (1 Kings viii. 27), 
"But will God dwell on the earth? Behold the heavens 
and earth cannot contain thee," inasmuch as they do not 
expressly state that God does not move from place to place, 
but only imply it, must be explained away till they have no 
further semblance of denying locomotion to the Deity. So 
also we must believe that the sky is the habitation and 
throne of God, for Scripture expressly says so ; and simi 
larly many passages expressing the opinions of the prophets 
or the multitude, which reason and philosophy, but not 
Scripture, tell us to be false, must be taken as true if we 
are to follow the guidance of our author, for according to 
him, reason has nothing to do with the matter. Further, 
it is untrue that Scripture never contradicts itself directly, 
but only by implication. For Moses says, in so many 
words (Deut. iv. 24), "The Lord thy God is a consuming 
fire," and elsewhere expressly denies that God has any 
likeness to visible things. (Deut. iv. 12.) If it be decided 
that the latter passage only contradicts the former bv im 
plication, and must be adapted thereto, lest it seein to 
negative it, let us grant that God is a fire ; or rather, lest 


we should seem to have taken leave of our senses, let us 
pass the matter over and take another example. 

Samuel expressly denies that God ever repents, " for he 
is not a man that he should repent" (1 Sam. xv. 29). 
Jeremiah, on the other hand, asserts that God does repent, 
both of the evil and of the good which. He had intended to 
do (Jer. xviii. 8-10). What? Are not these two texts 
directly contradictory ? Which of the two, then, would 
our author want to explain metaphorically ? Both state 
ments are general, and each is the opposite of the other 
what one flatly affirms, the other flatly denies. So, by his 
own rule, he would be obliged at once to reject them as 
false, and to accept them as true. 

Again, what is the point of one passage, not being contra 
dicted by another directly, but only by implication, if the 
implication is clear, and the nature and context of the pas 
sage preclude metaphorical interpretation ? There are many 
such instances in the Bible, as we saw in Chap. II. (where 
we pointed out that the prophets held different and contra 
dictory opinions), and also in Chaps. IX. and X., where we 
drew attention to the contradictions in the historical narra 
tives. There is no need for me to go through them all 
again, for what I have said sufficiently exposes the absurdi 
ties which would follow from an opinion and rule such as 
we are discussing, and shows the hastiness of its pro- 

We may, therefore, put this theory, as well as that of 
Maimonides, entirely out of court; and we may take it 
for indisputable that theology is not bound to serve rea 
son, nor reason theology, but that each has her own 

The sphere of reason is, as we have said, truth and 
wisdom ; the sphere of theology is piety and obedience. 
The power of reason does not extend so far as to determine 
for us that men may be blessed through simple obedience, 
without understanding. Theology tells us nothing else, 
enjoins on us no command save obedience, and has neither 
the will nor the power to oppose reason : she defines the 
dogmas of faith (as we pointed out in the last chapter) only 
in so far as they may be necessary for obedience, and leaves 
reason to determine their precise truth : for reason is tin* 


light of the mind, and without her all things are dreams 
and phantoms. 

By theology, I here mean, strictly speaking, revelation, 
in so far as it indicates the object aimed at by Scripture - 
namely, the scheme and manner of obedience, or the true 
dogmas of piety and faith. This may truly be called the 
Word of God, which does not consist in a certain number 
of books (see Chap. XII.). Theology thus understood, if 
we regard its precepts or rules of life, will be found in ac 
cordance with reason ; and, if we look to its aim and object, 
will be seen to be in nowise repugnant thereto, wherefore it 
is universal to all men. 

As for its bearing on Scripture, we have shown in 
Chap. VII. that the meaning of Scripture should be gathered 
from its own history, and not from the history of nature 
in general, which is the basis of philosophy. 

We ought not to be hindered if we find that our investi 
gation of the meaning of Scripture thus conducted shows 
us that it is here and there repugnant to reason ; for what 
ever we may find of this sort in the Bible, which men may 
be in ignorance of, without injury to their charity, has, we 
may be sure, no bearing on theology or the Word of God, 
and may, therefore, without blame, be viewed by every one 
as he pleases. 

To sum up, we may draw the absolute conclusion that 
the Bible must not be accommodated to reason, nor reason 
to the Bible. 

Now, inasmuch as the basis of theology the doctrine 
that man may be saved by obedience alone cannot be 
proved by reason whether it be true or false, we may be 
asked, Why, then, should we believe it? If we do so 
without the aid of reason, we accept it blindly, and act 
foolishly and injudiciously ; if, on the other hand, we settle 
that it can be proved by reason, theology becomes a part 
of philosophy, and inseparable therefrom. But I make 
answer that I have absolutely established that this basis 
of theology cannot be investigated by the natural light of 
reason, or, at any rate, that no one ever has proved it by 
such means, and, therefore, revelation was necessary. We 
should, however, make use of our reason, in order to grasp 
with moral certainty what is revealed I say, with moral 


certainty, for we cannot hope to attain greater certainty 
than the prophets : yet their certainty was only moral, as I 
showed in Chap. II. 

Those, therefore, who attempt to set forth the authority 
of Scripture with mathematical demonstrations are wholly 
in error : for the authority of the Bible is dependent on the 
authority of the prophets, and can be supported by no 
stronger arguments than those employed in old time by the 
prophets for convincing the people of their own authority. 
Our certainty on the same subject can be founded on no other 
basis than that which served as foundation for the certainty 
of the prophets. 

Now the certainty of the prophets consisted (as we 
pointed out) in these three elements :(!.) A distinct and 
vivid imagination. (II.) A sign. (III.) Lastly, and chiefly, 
a mind turned to what is just and good. It was based on 
no other reasons than these, and consequently they cannot 
prove their authority by any other reasons, either to the 
multitude whom they addressed orally, nor to us whom they 
address in writing. 

The first of these reasons, namely, the vivid imagination, 
could be valid only for the prophets; therefore, our certainty 
concerning revelation must, and ought to be, based on the 
remaining two namely, the sign and the teaching. Such 
is the express doctrine of Moses, for (in Deut. xviii.) he bids 
the people obey the prophet who should give a true sign in 
the name of the Lord, but if he should predict falsely, even 
though it were in the name of the Lord, he should be put 
to death, as should also he who strives to lead a .vay the 
people from the true religion, though he confirm his autho 
rity with signs and portents. We may compare with the 
above Deut xiii. Whence it follows that a true prophet 
could be distinguished from a false one, both by his doctrine 
and by the miracles he wrought, for Moses declares such an 
one to be a true prophet, and bids the people trust him 
without fear of deceit. He condemns as false, and worthy 
of death, those who predict anything falsely even in the 
name of the Lord, or who preach false gods, even though 
their miracles be real. 

The only reason, then, which we have for belief in Scrip 
ture or the writings of the prophets, is the doctrine we find 


therein, and the signs by which it is confirmed. For as we 
see that the prophets extol charity and justice above all 
things, and have no other object, we conclude that they did 
not write from unworthy motives, but because they really 
thought that men might become blessed through obedience 
and faith : further, as we see that they confirmed their 
teaching with signs and wonders, we become persuaded 
that they did not speak at random, nor run riot in their 
prophecies. We are further strengthened in our conclusion 
by the fact that the morality they teach is in evident agree 
ment with reason, for it is no accidental coincidence that 
the Word of God which we find in the prophets coincides 
with the Word of God written in our hearts. We may, I 
say, conclude this from the sacred books as certainly as did 
the Jews of old from the living voice of the prophets : for 
we showed in Chap. XII. that Scripture has come down to 
us intact in respect to its doctrine and main narratives. 

Therefore this whole basis of theology and Scripture, 
though it does not admit of mathematical proof, may yet 
be accepted with the approval of our judgment. It would 
be folly to refuse to accept what is confirmed by such ample 
prophetic testimony, and what has proved such a comfort 
to those whose reason is comparatively weak, and such a 
benefit to the state ; a doctrine, moreover, which we may 
believe in without the slightest peril or hurt, and should 
reject simply because it cannot be mathematically proved : 
it is as though we should admit nothing as true, or as a 
wise rule of life, which could ever, in any possible way, be 
called in question ; or as though most of our actions were 
not full of uncertainty and hazard. 

I admit that those who believe that theology and philo 
sophy are mutually contradictory, and that therefore either 
one or the other must be thrust from its throne I admit, 
I say, that such persons are not unreasonable in attempting 
to put theology on a firm basis, and to demonstrate its truth 
mathematically. Who, unless he were desperate or mad, 
would wish to bid an incontinent farewell to reason, or to 
despise the arts and sciences, or to deny reason s certitude? 
But, in the meanwhile, we cannot wholly absolve them from 
blame, inasmuch as they invoke the aid of reason for her 
own defeat, and attempt infallibly to prove her fallible. 


While they are trying to prove mathematically the autho 
rity and truth of theology, and to take away the authority 
of natural reason, they are in reality only bringing theology 
under reason s dominion, and proving that her authority 
has no weight unless natural reason be at the back of it. 

If they boast that they themselves assent because of the 
inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, and that they only 
invoke the aid of reason because of unbelievers, in order to 
convince them, not even so can this meet with our approval, 
for we can easily show that they have spoken either from 
emotion or vain-glory. It most clearly follows from the last 
chapter that the Holy Spirit only gives its testimony in 
favour of works, called by Paul (in Gal. v. 22) the fruits 
of the Spirit, and is in itself really nothing but the mental 
acquiescence which follows a good action in our souls. No 
spirit gives testimony concerning the certitude of matters 
within the sphere of speculation, save only reason, who 
is mistress, as we have shown, of the whole realm of truth. 
If then they assert that they possess this Spirit which 
makes them certain of truth, they speak falsely, and accord 
ing to the prejudices of the emotions, or else they are in 
great dread lest they should be vanquished by philosophers 
and exposed to public ridicule, and therefore they flee, as it 
were, to the altar ; but their refuge is vain, for what altar 
will shelter a man who has outraged reason? However, 
I pass such persons over, for I think I have fulfilled iny 
purpose, and shown how philosophy should be separated 
from theology, and wherein each consists ; that neither 
should be subservient to the other, but that each should 
keep her unopposed dominion. Lastly, as occasion oft ered, 
I have pointed out the absurdities, the inconveniences, and 
the evils following from the extraordinary confusion which 
has hitherto prevailed between the two subjects, owing to 
their not being properly distinguished and separated. Be 
fore I go further I would expressly state (though I have 
said it before) that I consider the utility and the need for 
Holy Scripture or Revelation to be very great. For as we 
cannot perceive by the natural light of reason that simple 
obedience is the path of salvation, 1 and are taught by reve 
lation only that it is so by the special grace of God, which 
our reason cannot attain, it follows that the Bible has 

1 See you- L>J. 


"brought a very great consolation to mankind. All are able 
to obey, whereas there are but very few, compared with the 
aggregate of humanity, who can acquire the habit of virtue 
under the unaided guidance of reason. Thus if we had not 
the testimony of Scripture, we should doubt of the salva 
tion of nearly all men. 





TTITHERTO our care lias been to separate philosophy 
-L J- from theology, and to show the freedom of thought 
which such separation insures to both. It is now time to 
determine the limits to which such freedom of thought and 
discussion may extend itself in the ideal state. For the 
due consideration of this question we must examine the 
foundations of a state, first turning our attention to the 
natural rights of individuals, and afterwards to religion 
and the state as a whole. 

By the right and ordinance of nature, I merely mean 
those natural laws wherewith we conceive every individual 
to be conditioned by nature, so as to live and act in a given 
way. For instance, fishes are naturally conditioned for 
swimming, and the greater for devouring the less ; there 
fore fishes enjoy the water, and the greater devour the less 
by sovereign natural right. For it is certain that nature, 
taken in the abstract, has sovereign right to do anything 
she can ; in other words, her right is co-extensive with her 
power. The power of nature is the power of God, which 
has sovereign right over all things ; and, inasmuch as the 
power of nature is simply the aggregate of the powers of 
all her individual components, it follows that every indi 
vidual has sovereign right to do all that he can ; in other 
words, the rights of an individual extend to the utmost 
limits of his power as it has been conditioned. Now it is 
the sovereign law and right of nature that each individual 
should endeavour to preserve itself as it is, without regard 
to anything but itself; therefore this sovereign law and 


right belongs to every individual, namely, to exist and act 
according to its natural conditions. We do not here 
acknowledge any difference between mankind and other 
individual natural entities, nor between men endowed with 
reason and those to whom reason is unknown ; nor between 
fools, madmen, and sane men. Whatsoever an individual 
does by the laws of its nature it has a sovereign right to do, 
inasmuch as it acts as it was conditioned by nature, and 
cannot act otherwise. Wherefore among men, so long as 
they are considered as living under the sway of nature, he 
who does not yet know reason, or who has not yet acquired 
the habit of virtue, acts solely according to the laws of his 
desire with as sovereign a right as he who orders his life 
entirely by the laws of reason. 

That is, as the wise man has sovereign right to do all 
that reason dictates, or to live according to the laws of 
reason, so also the ignorant and foolish man has sovereign 
right to do all that desire dictates, or to live according to 
the laws of desire. This is identical with the teaching of 
Paul, who acknowledges that previous to the law that is, 
so long as men are considered of as living under the sway 
of nature, there is no sin. 

The natural right of the individual man is thus deter 
mined, not by sound reason, but by desire and power. All 
are not naturally conditioned so as to act according to the 
laws and rules of reason ; nay, on the contrary, all men 
are born ignorant, and before they can learn the right way 
of life and acquire the habit of virtue, the greater part of 
their life, even if they have been well brought up, has 
passed away. Nevertheless, they are in the meanwhile 
bound to live and preserve themselves as far as they can 
by the unaided impulses of desire. Nature has given them 
no other guide, and has denied them the present power of 
living according to sound reason; so that they are no 
more bound to live by the dictates of an enlightened mind, 
than a cat is bound to live by the laws of the nature of a 

Whatsoever, therefore, an individual (considered as under 
the sway of nature) thinks useful for himself, whether led 
by sound reason or impelled by the passions, that he has a 
sovereign right to seek and to take for himself as he best 


can, whether "by force, cunning, entreaty, or any other 
means ; consequently he may regard as an enemy anyone 
who hinders the accomplishment of his purpose. 

It follows from what we have said that the right and 
ordinance of nature, under which all men are born, and 
under which they mostly live, only prohibits such things 
as no one desires, and no one can attain : it does not forbid 
strife, nor hatred, nor anger, nor deceit, nor, indeed, any of 
the means suggested by desire. 

This we need not wonder at, for nature is not bounded 
by the laws of human reason, which aims only at man s 
true benefit and preservation; her limits are infinitely 
wider, and have reference to the eternal order of nature, 
wherein man is but a speck ; it is by the necessity of this 
alone that all individuals are conditioned for living and 
acting in a particular way. If anything, therefore, in 
nature seems to us ridiculous, absurd, or evil, it is because 
we only know in part, and are almost entirely ignorant of 
the order and interdependence of nature as a whole, and also 
because we want everything to be arranged according to 
the dictates of our human reason ; in reality that which 
reason considers evil, is not evil in respect to the order and 
laws of nature as a whole, but only in respect to the laws 
of our reason. 

Nevertheless, no one can doubt that it is much better for 
us to live according to the laws and assured dictates of 
reason, for, as we said, they have men s true good for 
their object. Moreover, everyone wishes to live as far as 
possible securely beyond the reach of fear, and this would 
be quite impossible so long as everyone did everything he 
liked, and reason s claim was lowered to a par with those 
of hatred and anger ; there is no one who is not ill at ease 
in the midst of enmity, hatred, anger, and deceit, and who 
does not seek to avoid them as much as he can. When we 
reflect that men without mutual help, or the aid of reason, 
must needs live most miserably, as we clearly proved in 
Chap. V., we shall plainly see that men must necessarily 
come to an agreement to live together as securely and 
well as possible if they are to enjoy as a whole the rights 
which naturally be ong to them as individuals, and their 
liiV should be no more conditioned by the force and desire 


of individuals, "but by the power and will of the whole "body. 
This end they will be unable to attain if desire be their 
only guide (for by the laws of desire each man is drawn in 
a different direction) ; they must, therefore, most firmly de 
cree and establish that they will be guided in everything 
by reason (which nobody will dare openly to repudiate lest 
he should be taken for a madman), and* will restrain any 
desire which is injurious to a man s fellows, that they will 
do to all as they would be done by, and that they will de 
fend their neighbour s rights as their own. 

How such a compact as this should be entered into, 
how ratified and established, we will now inquire. 

Now it is a universal law of human nature that no one 
ever neglects anything which he judges to be good, except 
with the hope of gaining a greater good, or from the fear of a 
greater evil ; nor does anyone endure an evil except for the 
sake of avoiding a greater evil, or gaining a greater good. 
That is, everyone will, of two goods, choose that which he 
thinks the greatest ; and, of two evils, that which he tliinks 
the least. I say advisedly that which he thinks the greatest 
or the least, for it does not necessarily follow that he judges 
right. This law is so deeply implanted in the human mind 
that it ought to be counted among eternal truths and 

As a necessary consequence of the principle just enun 
ciated, no one can honestly promise to forego the right which 
he has over all things, 1 and in general no one will abide by 
his promises, unless under the fear of a greater evil, or the 
hope of a greater good. An example will make the matter 
clearer. Suppose that a robber forces me to promise that 
I will give him my goods at his will and pleasure. It is 
plain (inasmuch as my natural right is, as I have shown, 
co-extensive with my power) that if I can free myself from 
this robber by stratagem, by assenting to his demands, I 
have the natural right to do so, and to pretend to accept 
his conditions. Or again, suppose I have genuinely pro 
mised someone that for the space of twenty days I will 
not taste food or any nourishment ; and suppose I after 
wards find that my promise was foolish, and cannot be 
kept, without very great injury to myself ; as I am bound 
by natural law and right to choose the least of two evils, I 
1 See Note 26. 


heave complete right to "break my compact, and act as if 
my promise had never been uttered. I say that I should 
have perfect natural right to do so, whether I was actuated 
by true and evident reason, or whether I was actuated by 
mere opinion in thinking I had promised rashly ; whether 
my reasons w r ere true or false, I should be in fear of a 
greater evil, which, by the ordinance of nature, I should 
strive to avoid by every means in my power. 

We may, therefore, conclude that a compact is only 
made valid by its utility, without which it becomes null 
and void. It is, therefore, foolish to ask a man to keep 
his faith with us for ever, unless we also endeavour that 
the violation of the compact we enter into shall involve 
for the violator more harm than good. This consideration 
should have very great weight in forming a state. However, 
if all men could be easily led by reason alone, and could 
recognize what is best and most useful for a state, there 
would be no one who would not forswear deceit, for every 
one would keep most religiously to their compact in their 
desire for the chief good, namely, the preservation of the 
state, and would cherish good faith above all things as the 
shield and buckler of the commonwealth. However, it is 
far from being the case that all men can always be easily 
led by reason alone ; everyone is drawn away by his plea 
sure, while avarice, ambition, envy, hatred, and the like 
so engross the mind that reason has no place therein. 
Hence, though men make promises with all the appear 
ances of good faith, and agree that they will keep to their 
engagement, no one can absolutely rely on another man s 
promise unless there is something behind it. Everyone 
has by nature a right to act deceitfully, and to break his 
compacts, unless he be restrained by the hope of some 
greater good, or the fear of some greater evil. 

However, as we have shown that the natural right of the 
individual is only limited by his power, it is clear that by 
transferring, either willingly or under compulsion, this 
power into the hands of another, he in so doing necessarily 
cedes also a part of his right; and further, that the sove 
reign right over all men belongs to him who has sovereign 
power, wherewith he can compel men by force, or restrain 
them by threats of the universally feared punishment of 


death ; such sovereign right he will retain only so long as 
he can maintain his power of enforcing his will ; otherwise 
he will totter on his throne, and no one who is stronger 
than he will be bound unwillingly to obey him. 

In this manner a society can be formed without any 
violation of natural right, and the covenant can always be 
strictly kept that is, if each individual hands over the 
whole of his power to the body politic, the latter will then 
possess sovereign natural right over all things ; that is, it 
will have sole and unquestioned dominion, and everyone 
will be bound to obey, under pain of the severest punish 
ment. A body politic of this kind is called a Democracy, 
which may be denned as a society which wields all its 
power as a whole. The sovereign power is not restrained 
by any laws, but everyone is bound to obey it in all things ; 
such is the state of things implied when men either tacitly 
or expressly handed over to it all their power of self- 
defence, or in other words, all their right. For if they 
had wished to retain any right for themselves, they ought 
to have taken precautions for its defence and preserva 
tion ; as they have not done so, and indeed could not have 
done so without dividing and consequently ruining the 
state, they placed themselves absolutely at the mercy of 
the sovereign power ; and, therefore, having acted (as we 
have shown) as reason and necessity demanded, they are 
obliged to fulfil the commands of the sovereign power, 
however absurd these may be, else they will be public 
enemies, and will act against reason, which urges the pre 
servation of the state as a primary duty. For reason bids 
us choose the least of two evils. 

Furthermore, this danger of submitting absolutely to the 
dominion and will of another, is one which may be incurred 
with a light heart : for we have shown that sovereigns only 
possess this right of imposing their will, so long as they 
have the full power to enforce it: if such power be lost 
their right to command is lost also, or lapses to those who 
have assumed it and can keep it. Thus it is very rare for 
sovereigns to impose thoroughly irrational commands, for 
they are bound to consult their own interests, and retain 
their power by consulting the public good and acting 
according to the dictates of reason, as Seneca says, " vio- 


lenta impcria nemo coutinuit diu." No one can long 
retain a tyrant s sway. 

In a democracy, irrational commands are still less to bo 
feared : for it is almost impossible that the majority of a 
people, especially if it be a large one, should agree in an 
irrational design : and, moreover, the basis and aim of a 
democracy is to avoid the desires as irrational, and to bring 
men as far as possible under the control of reason, so that 
they may live in peace and harmony: if tin s basis be 
removed the whole fabric falls to ruin. 

Such being the ends in view for the sovereign power, the 
duty of subjects is, as I have said, to obey its commands, 
and to recognize no right save that which it sanctions. 

It will, perhaps, be thought that we are turning subjects 
into slaves : for slaves obey commands and free men live 
as they like ; but this idea is based on a misconception, for 
the true slave is he who is led away by his pleasures and 
can neither see what is good for him nor act accordingly : 
he alone is free who lives with free consent under the entire 
guidance of reason. 

Action in obedience to orders does take away freedom in 
a certain sense, but it does not, therefore, make a man a 
slave, all depends on the object of the action. If the 
object of the action be the good of the state, and not the 
good of the agent, the latter is a slave and does himself no 
good : but in a state or kingdom where the weal of the 
whole people, and not that of the ruler, is the supreme law, 
obedience to the sovereign power does not make a man a 
slave, of no use to himself, but a subject. Therefore, 
that state is the freest whose laws are founded on sound 
reason, so that every member of it may, if he will, be free; 1 
that is, live with full consent under the entire guidance of 

Children, though they are bound to obey all the com 
mands of their parents, are yet not slaves : for the com- 
mauds of parents look generally to the children s benefit. 

We must, therefore, acknowledge a great difference be 
tween a slave, a son, and a subject ; their positions may be 
thus defined. A slave is one who is bound to obe/ liis 
master s orders, though they are given solely in the master s 
interest: a son is one who obeys his father s orders, given 


in his own interest ; a subject obeys the orders of the sove 
reign power, given for the common interest, wherein he is 

I think I have now shown sufficiently clearly the basis of 
a democracy : I have especially desired to do so, for I be 
lieve it to be of all forms of government the most natural, 
and the most consonant with individual liberty. In it no 
one transfers his natural right so absolutely that he has no 
further voice in affairs, he only hands it over to the majority 
of a society, whereof he is a unit. Thus all men remain, 
as they were in the state of nature, equals. 

This is the only form of government which I have treated 
of at length, for it is the one most akin to my purpose of 
showing the benefits of freedom in a state. 

I may pass over the fundamental principles of other 
forms of government, for we may gather from what has 
been said whence their right arises without going into its 
origin. The possessor of sovereign power, whether he be 
one, or many, or the whole body politic, has the. sovereign 
right of imposing any commands he pleases : and he who 
has either voluntarily, or under compulsion, transferred the 
right to defend him to another, has, in so doing, renounced 
his natural right and is therefore bound to obey, in all 
things, the commands of the sovereign power ; and will be 
bound so to do so long as the king, or nobles, or the people 
preserve the sovereign power which formed the basis of the 
original transfer. I need add no more. 

The bases and rights of dominion being thus displayed, 
we shall readily be able to define private civil right, wrong, 
justice, and injustice, with their relations to the state ; and 
also to determine what constitutes an ally, or an enemy, or 
the crime of treason. 

By private civil right we can only mean the liberty every 
man possesses to preserve his existence, a liberty limited by 
the edicts of the sovereign power, and preserved only by its 
authority : for when a man has transferred to another his 
right of living as he likes, which was only limited by his 
power, that is, has transferred his liberty and power of self- 
defence, he is bound to live as that other dictates, and to 
trust to him entirely for his defence. Wrong takes place 
Tvhen a citizen, or subject, is forced, by another to undergo 


some loss or pain in contradiction to the authority of the 
law, or the edict of the sovereign power. 

Wrong is conceivable only in an organized community 
nor can it ever accrue to subjects from any act of the sove 
reign, who has the right to do what he likes. It can only 
arise, therefore, between private persons, who are bound by 
law and right not to injure one another. Justice consists 
in the habitual rendering to every man his lawful due : in- 
justice consists in depriving a man, under the pretence of 
legality, of what the laws, rightly interpreted, would allow 
him. These last are also called equity and iniquity, be 
cause those who administer the laws are bound to show no 
respect of persons, but to account all men equal, and to de 
fend every man s right equally, neither envying the rich 
nor despising the poor. 

The men of two states become allies, when for the sake 
of avoiding war, or for some other advantage, they covenant 
to do each other no hurt, but on the contrary, to assist each 
other if necessity arises, each retaining his independence. 
Such a covenant is valid so long as its basis of danger or 
advantage is in force : no one enters into an engagement 
or is bound to stand by his compacts unless there be a hope 
of some accruing good, or the fear of some evil: if this 
basis be removed the compact thereby becomes void : this 
has been abundantly shown by experience. For although 
different states make treaties not to harm one another, they 
always take every possible precaution against such treaties 
being broken by the stronger party, and do not rely on the 
compact, unless there is a sufficiently obvious object and 
advantage to both parties in observing it. Otherwise they 
would fear a breach of faith, nor would there be any wrong 
done thereby: for who in his proper senses, and aware of 
the right of the sovereign power, would trust in the pro 
mises of one who has the will and the power to do what he 
likes, and who aims solely at the safety and advantage of 
his dominion ? Moreover, if we consult loyalty and religion, 
we shall see that no one in possession of power outfit to 
abide by his promises to the injury of his dominion ; for ho 
cannot keep such promises without breaking the en^ao-e- 
inent he made with his subjects, by which both he ancfthoy 
are most solemnly bound. 


An enemy is one who lives apart from the state, and 
does not recognize its authority either as a subject or as an 
ally. It is not hatred which makes a man an enemy, but 
the rights of the state. The rights of the state are the 
same in regard to him who does not recognize by any com 
pact the state authority, as they are against him who has 
done the state an injury : it has the right to force him as 
best it can, either to submit, or to contract an alliance. 

Lastly, treason can only be committed by subjects, who 
by compact, either tacit or expressed, have transferred all 
their rights to the state: a subject is said to have com 
mitted this crime when he has attempted, for whatever 
reason, to seize the sovereign power, or to place it in diffe 
rent hands. I say, has attempted, for if punishment were 
not to overtake him till he had succeeded, it would often 
come too late, the sovereign rights would have been ac 
quired or transferred already. 

I also say, has attempted, for whatever reason, to seize the 
sovereign power, and I recognize no difference whether such 
an attempt should be followed by public loss or public 
gain. Whatever be his reason for acting, the crime is 
treason, and he is rightly condemned: in war, everyone 
would admit the justice of his sentence. If a man does 
not keep to his post, but approaches the enemy without the 
knowledge of his commander, whatever may be his motive, 
so long as he acts on his own motion, even if he advances 
with the design of defeating the enemy, he is rightly put 
to death, because he has violated his oath, and infringed 
the rights of his commander. That all citizens are equally 
bound by these rights in time of peace, is not so generally 
recognized, but the reasons for obedience are in both cases, 
identical. The state must be preserved and directed by 
the sole authority of the sovereign, and such authority and 
right have been accorded by universal consent to him alone : 
if, therefore, anyone else attempts, without his consent, to 
execute any public enterprise, even though the state might 
(as we said) reap benefit therefrom, such person has none 
the less infringed the sovereign s right, and would be rightly 
punished for treason. 

In order that every scruple may be removed, we may 
now answer the inquiry, whether our former assertion that 


everyone who lias rot the practice of reason, may, in the 
state of nature, live by sovereign natural right, according 
to the laws of his desires, is not in direct opposition to 
the law and right of God as revealed. For as all men abso 
lutely (whether they be less endowed with reason or more) 
are equally bound by the Divine command to love their 
neighbour as themselves, it may be said that they cannot, 
without wrong, do injury to anyone, or live according to 
their desires. 

This objection, so far as the state of nature is concerned, 
can be easily answered, for the state of nature is, both in 
nature and in time, prior to religion. No one knows by 
nature that he owes any obedience to God, 1 nor can he 
attain thereto by any exercise of his reason, but solely by 
revelation confirmed by signs. Therefore, previous to reve 
lation, no one is bound by a Divine law and right of which 
he is necessarily in ignorance. The slate of nature must 
by no means be confounded with a state of religion, but 
must be conceived as without either religion or law, and 
consequently without sin or wrong: this "is how we have 
described it, and we are confirmed by the authority of Paul. 
It is not only in respect of ignorance that we conceive the 
state of nature as prior to, and lacking the Divine revealed 
law and right ; but in respect of freedom also, wherewith all 
men are born endowed. 

If men were naturally bound by the Divine law and 
right, or if the Divine law and right were a natural necessity, 
there would have been no need for God to make a covenant 
with mankind, and to bind them thereto with an oath and 

We must, then, fully grant that the Divine law and right 
originated at the time when men by express covenant agreed 
to obey God in all things, and ceded, as it were, their natural 
freedom, transferring their rights to God in the manner 
described in speaking of the formation of a state. 

However, I will treat of these matters more at length 

It may he insisted that sovereigns are as much bound by 
the Divine law as subjects : whereas we have asserted that 
they retain their natural rights, and may do whatever they 

i See Note 28. 


In order to clear up the whole difficulty, which arises 
rather concerning the natural right than the natural state, 
I maintain that everyone is bound, in the state of nature, 
to live according to Divine law, in the same way as he is 
bound to live according to the dictates of sound reason; 
namely, inasmuch as it is to his advantage, and necessary 
for his salvation; but, if he will not so live, he may do 
otherwise at his own risk. He is thus bound to live accord 
ing to his own laws, not according to anyone else s, and to 
recognize no man as a judge, or as a superior in religion. 
Such, in my opinion, is the position of a sovereign, for he 
may take advice from his fellow-men, but he is not bound 
to recognize any as a judge, nor anyone besides himself as 
an arbitrator on any question of right, unless it be a prophet 
sent expressly by God. and attesting his mission by indis 
putable signs. Even then he does not recognize a man, but 
God Himself as His judge. 

If a sovereign refuses to obey God as revealed in His 
law, he does so at his own risk and loss, but without vio 
lating any civil or natural right. For the civil right is 
dependent on his own decree ; and natural right is depen 
dent on the laws of nature, which latter are not adapted to 
religion, whose sole aim is the good of humanity, but to the 
order of nature that is, to God s eternal decree unknown 
to us. 

This truth seems to be adumbrated in a somewhat ob 
scurer form by those who maintain that men can sin against 
God s revelation, but not against the eternal decree by 
which He has ordained all things. 

We may be asked, what should we do if the sovereign 
commands anything contrary to religion, and the obedience 
which we have expressly vowed to God? should we obey 
the Divine law or the human law? I shall treat of this 
question at length hereafter, and will therefore merely say 
now, that God should be obeyed before all else, when we 
have a certain and indisputable revelation of His will : but 
men are very prone to error on religious subjects, and, 
according to the diversity of their dispositions, are wont 
with considerable stir to put forward their own inventions, 
as experience more than sufficiently attests, so that if no 
one were bound to obey the state in matters which, in his 


own opinion concern religion, the rights of the state would 
l>e dependent on every man s judgment and passions. No 
one would consider himself bound to obey laws framed 
against his faith or superstition; and on this pretext he 
might assume unbounded license. In this way, the rights 
of the civil authorities would be utterly set at nought, so 
that we must conclude that the sovereign power, which 
alone is bound both by Divine and natural right to preserve 
r.nd guard the laws of the state, should have supreme 
authority for making any laws about religion which it 
thinks fit ; all are bound to obey its behests on the subject 
in accordance with their promise which God bids them to 

However, if the sovereign power be heathen, we should 
either enter into no engagements therewith, and yield up 
our lives sooner than transfer to it any of our rights ; or, if 
the engagement be made, and our rights transferred, we 
should (inasmuch as we should have ourselves transferred 
the right of defending ourselves and our religion) be bound 
to obey them, and to keep our word: we might even rightly 
be bound so to do, except in those cases where God, by in 
disputable revelation, has promised His special aid against 
tyranny, or given us special exemption from obedience. 
Thus we see that, of all the Jews in Babylon, there were 
only three youths who were certain of the help of God, and, 
therefore, refused to obey Nebuchadnezzar. All the rest, 
with the sole exception of Daniel, who was beloved by the 
king, were doubtless compelled by right to obey, perhaps 
thinking that they had been delivered up by God into the 
hands of the king, and that the king had obtained and pre 
served his dominion by God s design. On the other hand, 
Eleazar, before his country had utterly fallen, wished to 
give a proof of his constancy to his compatriots, in order 
that they might follow in his footsteps, and go to any 
lengths, rather than allow their right and power to be 
transferred to the Greeks, or brave any torture rather than 
swear allegiance to the heathen. Instances are occurring 
every day in confirmation of what I here advance. The 
rulers of Christian kingdoms do not hesitate, with a view to 
strengthening their dominion, to make treaties with Turks 
and heathen, and to give orders to their subjects who 


settle among such peoples not to assume more freedom, 
either in things secular or religious, than is set down in the 
treaty, or allowed by the foreign government. We may see 
this exemplified in the Dutch treaty with the Japanese, 
which I have already mentioned. 




THE theory put forward in the last chapter, of the uni 
versal rights of the sovereign power, and of the natural 
rights of the individual transferred thereto, though it corre 
sponds in many respects with actual practice, and though 
practice may be so arranged as to conform to it more and 
more, must nevertheless always remain in many respects 
purely ideal. No one can ever so utterly transfer to 
another his power and, consequently, his rights, as to ceaso 
to be a man ; nor can there ever be a power so sovereign 
that it can carry out every possible wish. It will always 
be vain to order a subject to hate what he believes brings 
him advantage, or to love what brings him loss, or not to 
be offended at insults, or not to wish to be free from fear, 
or a hundred other things of the sort, which necessarily 
follow from the laws of human nature. So much, I think, 
is abundantly shown by experience : for men have never so 
far ceded their power as to cease to be an object of fear to 
the rulers who received such power and right ; and domi 
nions have always been in as much danger from their own 
subjects as from external enemies. If it were really the 
case that men could be deprived of their natural rights so 
utterly as never to have any further influence on affairs, 1 
except with the permission of the holders of sovereign 
right, it would then be possible to maintain with impunity 
1 See Note 2U. 


the most violent tyranny, which, I suppose, no one would 
for an instant admit. 

We must, therefore, grant that every man retains some 
part of his right, in dependence on his own decision, and no 
one else s. 

However, in order correctly to understand the extent 
of the sovereign s right and power, we must take notice 
that it does not cover only those actions to which it can 
compel men by fear, but absolutely every action which it 
can induce men to perform : for it is the fact of obedience, 
not the motive for obedience, which makes a man a subject. 

Whatever be the cause which leads a man to obey the 
commands of the sovereign, whether it be fear or hope, or 
love of his country, or any other emotion the fact remains 
that the man takes counsel with himself, and nevertheless 
acts as his sovereign orders. We must not, therefore, 
assert that all actions resulting from a man s deliberation 
with himself are done in obedience to the rights of the in 
dividual rather than the sovereign : as a matter of fact, all 
actions spring from a man s deliberation with himself, 
whether the determining motive be love or fear of punish 
ment ; therefore, either dominion does not exist, and has 
no rights over its subjects, or else it extends over every in 
stance in which it can prevail on men to decide to obey it. 
Consequently, every action which a subject performs in ac 
cordance with the commands of the sovereign, whether such 
action springs from love, or fear, or (as is more frequently 
the case) from hope and fear together, or from reverence 
compounded of fear and admiration, or, indeed, any motive 
whatever, is performed in virtue of his submission to the 
sovereign, and not in virtue of his own authority. 

Tliis point is made still more clear by the fact that obe 
dience does not consist so much in the outward act as in 
the mental state of the person obeying ; so that lie is most 
under the dominion of another who with his whole heart 
determines to obey another s commands ; and consequently 
the firmest dominion belongs to the sovereign who has most 
influence over the minds of his subjects ; if those who are 
most feared possessed the firmest dominion, the firmest 
dominion would belong to the subjects of a tyrant, for they 
are ahvays greatly feared by their ruler. Furthermore, 


though it is impossible to govern the mind as completely 
as the tongue, nevertheless minds are, to a certain extent, 
under the control of the sovereign, for he can in many ways 
bring about that the greatest part of his subjects should 
follow his wishes in their beliefs, their loves, and their 
hates. Though such emotions do not arise at the express 
command of the sovereign they often result (as experience 
shows) from the authority of his power, and from his direc 
tion ; in other words, in virtue of his right ; we may, there 
fore, without doing violence to our understanding, conceive 
men who follow the instigation of their sovereign in their 
beliefs, their loves, their hates, their contempt, and all other 
emotions whatsoever. 

Though the powers of government, as thus conceived, are 
sufficiently ample, they can never become large enough to 
execute every possible wish of their possessors. This, I 
think, I have already shown clearly enough. The method 
of forming a dominion which should prove lasting I do not, 
as I have said, intend to discuss, but in order to arrive at 
the object I have in view, I will touch on the teaching of 
Divine revelation to Moses in this respect, and we will con 
sider the history and the success of the Jews, gathering 
therefrom what should be the chief concessions made by 
sovereigns to their subjects with a view to the security and 
increase of their dominion. 

That the preservation of a state chiefly depends on the 
subjects fidelity and constancy in carrying out the orders 
they receive, is most clearly taught both by reason and ex 
perience ; how subjects ought to be guided so as best to 
preserve their fidelity and virtue is not so obvious. All, 
both rulers and ruled, are men, and prone to follow after 
their lusts. The fickle disposition of the multitude almost 
reduces those who have experience of it to despair, for it is 
governed solely by emotions, not by reason : it rushes head 
long into every enterprise, and is easily corrupted either by 
avarice or luxury : everyone thinks himself omniscient and 
wishes to fashion all things to his liking, judging a thing 
to be just or unjust, lawful or unlawful, according as he 
thinks it will bring him profit or loss : vanity leads him 
to despise his equals, and refuse their guidance: envy of 
superior fame or fortune (for such gifts are never equally 


distributed) leads him to desire and rejoice in his neigh 
bour s downfall. I need not go through the whole list, 
everyone knows already how much crime results from dis 
gust at the present desire for change, headlong anger, and 
contempt for poverty and how men s minds are engrossed 
and kept in turmoil thereby. 

To guard against all these evils, and form a dominion 
where no room is left for deceit ; to frame our institutions 
so that every man, whatever his disposition, may prefer 
public right to private advantage, this is the task and this 
the toil. Necessity is often the mother of invention, but 
she has never yet succeeded in framing a dominion that 
was in less danger from its own citizens than from open 
enemies, or whose rulers did not fear the latter less than 
the former. Witness the state of Rome, invincible by her 
enemies, but many times conquered and sorely oppressed 
by her own citizens, especially in the war between Ves 
pasian and Vitellius. (See Tacitus, Hist. bk. iv. for a de 
scription of the pitiable state of the city.) 

Alexander thought prestige abroad more easy to acquire 
than prestige at home, and believed that his greatness 
could be destroyed by his own followers. Fearing such a 
disaster, he thus addressed his friends: "Keep me safe 
from internal treachery and domestic plots, and I will 
front without fear the dangers of battle and of war. Philip 
was more secure in the battle array than in the theatre : 
he often escaped from the hands of the enemy, he could 
not escape from his own subjects. If you think over the 
deaths of kings, you will count up more who have died by 
the assassin than by the open foe." (Q. Curtius, chap, vi.) 

For the sake of making themselves secure, kings who 
seized the throne in ancient times used to try to spread the 
idea that they were descended from the immortal gods, 
thinking that if their subjects and the rest of mankind did 
not look on them as equals, but believed them to be gods, 
they would willingly submit to their rule, and obey their 
commands. Thus Augustus persuaded the Eomans that 
he was descended from JEneas, who was the son of Venus, 
and numbered among the gods. " He wished himself to 
be worshipped in temples, like the gods, with flamens and 
priests." (Tacitus, Ann. i. 10.) 


Alexander wished to be saluted as the son of Jupiter, 
not from motives of pride but of policy, as he showed by 
lu s answer to the invective of Hermolaus : " It is almost 
laughable," said he, " that Hermolaus asked me to contra 
dict Jupiter, by whose oracle I am recognized. Am I re 
sponsible for the answers of the gods ? It offered me the 
name of son ; acquiescence was by no means foreign to my 
present designs. Would that the Indians also would be 
lieve me to be a god ! Wars are carried through by pres 
tige, falsehoods that are believed often gain the force of 
truth." (Curtius, viii. 8.) In these few words he cleverly 
contrives to palm off a fiction on the ignorant, and at the 
same time hints at the motive for the deception. 

Cleon, in his speech persuading the Macedonians to obey 
their king, adopted a similar device : for after going through 
the praises of Alexander with admiration, and recalling his 
merits, he proceeds, " the Persians are not only pious, but 
prudent in worshipping their kings as gods : for kingship 
is the shield of public safety," and he ends thus, " I, myself, 
when the king enters a banquet hall, should prostrate my 
body on the ground ; other men should do the like, espe 
cially those who are wise" (Curtius, viii. 65). However, 
the Macedonians were more prudent indeed, it is only com 
plete barbarians who can be so openly cajoled, and can 
suffer themselves to be turned from subjects into slaves 
without interests of their own. Others, notwithstanding, 
have been able more easily to spread the belief that king 
ship is sacred, and plays the part of God on the earth, that 
it has been instituted by God, not by the suffrage and con 
sent of men ; and that it is preserved and guarded by 
Divine special providence and aid. Similar fictions have been 
promulgated by monarchs, with the object of strengthen 
ing their dominion, but these I will pass over, and in 
order to arrive at my main purpose, will merely recall and 
discuss the teaching on the subject of Divine revelation to 
Moses in ancient times. 

We have said in Chap. V. that after the Hebrews came 
up out of Egypt they were not bound by the law and right 
of any other nation, but were at liberty to institute any 
new rites at their pleasure, and to occupy whatever terri 
tory they chose. After their liberation from the intolerable 


bondage of the Egyptians, they were bound by no covenant 
to any man; and, therefore, every man entered into his 
natural right, and was free to retain it or to give it up, and 
transfer it to another. Being, then, in the state of nature, 
they followed the advice of Moses, in whom they chiefly 
trusted, and decided to transfer their right to no human 
being, but only to God ; without further delay they all, 
with one voice, promised to obey all the commands of the 
Deity, and to acknowledge no right that He did not pro 
claim as such by prophetic revelation. This promise, or 
transference of right to God, was effected in the same 
manner as we have conceived it to have been in ordinary 
societies, when men agree to divest themselves of their 
natural rights. It is, in fact, in virtue of a set covenant, 
and an oath (see Exod. xxxiv. 7), that the Jews freely, and 
not under compulsion or threats, surrendered their rights 
and transferred them to God. Moreover, in order that this 
covenant might be ratified and settled, and might be free 
from all suspicion of deceit, God did not enter into it till 
the Jews had had experience of His wonderful power by 
which alone they had been, or could be, preserved in a state 
of prosperity (Exod. xix. 4, 5). It is because they believed 
that nothing but God s power could preserve them that 
they surrendered to God the natural power of self-preser 
vation, which they formerly, perhaps, thought they pos 
sessed, and consequently they surrendered at the same 
time all their natural right. 

God alone, therefore, held dominion over the Hebrews, 
whose state was in virtue of the covenant called God s 
kingdom, and God was said to be their king ; consequently 
the enemies of the Jews were said to be the enemies of 
God, and the citizens who tried to seize the dominion were 
guilty of treason against God; and, lastly, the laws of 
the state were called the laws and commandments of 
God. Thus in the Hebrew state the civil and religious 
authority, each consisting solely of obedience to "God, 
were one and the same. The dogmas of religion were 
not precepts, but laws and ordinances; piety was re 
garded as the same as loyalty, impiety as the same as dis 
affection. Everyone who fell away from religion ceased to 
be a citizen, and was, on that ground alone, accounted an 


enemy : tliose who died for the sake of religion, were held 
to have died for their country ; in fact, between civil and 
religious law and right there was no distinction whatever. 
For this reason the government could be called a Theocracy, 
inasmuch as the citizens were not bound by anything save 
the revelations of God. 

However, this state of things existed rather in theory 
than in practice, for it will appear from what we are about 
to say, that the Hebrews, as a matter of fact, retained 
absolutely in their own hands the right of sovereignty: 
this is shown by the method and plan by which the govern 
ment was carried on, as I will now explain. 

Inasmuch as the Hebrews did not transfer their rights 
to any other person but, as in a democracy, all surrendered 
their rights equally, and cried out with one voice, " What 
soever God shall speak (no mediator or mouthpiece being 
named) that will we do," it follows that all were equally 
bound by the covenant, and that all had an equal right to 
consult the Deity, to accept and to interpret His laws, so 
that all had an exactly equal share in the government. Thus 
at first they all approached God together, so that they 
might learn His commands, but in this first salutation, 
they were so thoroughly terrified and so astounded to hear 
God speaking, that "they thought their last hour was at 
hand : full of fear, therefore, they went afresh to Moses, 
and said, "Lo, we have heard God speaking in the fire, 
and there is no cause why we should wish to die : surely 
this great fire will consume us : if we hear again the voice 
of God, we shall surely die. Thou, therefore, go near, and 
hear all the words of our God, and thou (not God) slialt 
speak with us : all that God shall tell us, that will we 
hearken to and perform." 

They thus clearly abrogated their former covenant, and 
absolutely transferred to Moses their right to consult God 
and interpret His commands : for they do not here promise 
obedience to all that God shall tell them, but to all that 
God shall tell Moses (see Deut. v. after the Decalogue, and 
chap, xviii. v. 15, 1G). Moses, therefore, remained the sole 
promulgator and interpreter of the Divine laws, and con 
sequently also the sovereign judge, who could not be ar 
raigned himself, and who acted among the Hebrews the 


part of God ; in other words, held the sovereign kingship : 
he alone had the right to consult God, to give the Divine 
answers to the people, and to see that they were carried 
out. I say he alone, for if anyone during the life of Moses 
was desirous of preaching anything in the name of the 
Lord, he was, even if a true prophet, considered guilty and 
a usurper of the sovereign right (Numb. xi. 28). l We may 
here notice, that though the people had elected Moses, they 
could not rightfully elect Moses s successor ; for having 
transferred to Moses their right of consulting God, and 
absolutely promised to regard him as a Divine oracle, they 
had plainly forfeited the whole of their right, and were 
bound to accept as chosen by God anyone proclaimed by 
Moses as his successor. If Moses had so chosen his suc 
cessor, who like him should wield the sole right of govern 
ment, possessing the sole right of consulting God, and con 
sequently of making and abrogating laws, of deciding on 
peace or war, of sending ambassadors, appointing judges 
in fact, discharging all the functions of a sovereign, the 
state would have become simply a monarchy, only differing 
from other monarchies in the fact, that the latter are, or 
should be, carried on in accordance with God s decree, un 
known even to the monarch, whereas the Hebrew monarch 
would have been the only person to whom the decree was 
revealed. A difference which increases, rather than dimi 
nishes the monarch s authority. As far as the people in 
both cases are concerned, each would be equally subject, 
and equally ignorant of the Divine decree, for each would 
be dependent on the monarch s words, and would learn 
from him alone, what was lawful or unlawful : nor would 
the fact that the people believed that the monarch was 
only issuing commands in accordance with God s decree 
revealed to him, make it less in subjection, but rather 
more. However, Moses elected no such successor, but left 
the dominion to those who came after him in a condition 
which could not be called a popular government, nor an 
aristocracy, nor a monarchy, but a Theocracy. For the 
right of interpreting laws was vested in one man, while the 
right and power of administering the state according to the 

1 Sec Note 30. 


laws thus interpreted, was vested in another man (see 
Numb, xxvii, 2 1), 1 

In order that the question may be thoroughly understood, 
I will duly set forth the administration of the whole state. 

First, the people were commanded to build a tabernacle, 
which should be, as it were, the dwelling of God that is, 
of the sovereign authority of the state. This tabernacle 
was to be erected at the cost of the whole people, not of 
one man, in order that the place where God was consulted 
might be public property. The Levites were chosen as 
courtiers and administrators of this royal abode ; while 
Aaron, the brother of Moses, was chosen to be their chief 
and second, as it were, to God their King, being succeeded 
in the office by his legitimate sons. 

He, as the nearest to God, was the sovereign interpreter 
of the Divine laws ; he communicated the answers of the 
Divine oracle to the people, and entreated God s favour for 
them. If, in addition to these privileges, he had possessed 
the right of ruling, he would have been neither more nor 
less than an absolute monarch ; but, in respect to govern 
ment, he was only a private citizen : the whole tribe of 
Levi was so completely divested of governing rights that it 
did not even take its share with the others in the partition 
of territory. Moses provided for its support by inspiring 
the common people with great reverence for it, as the only 
tribe dedicated to God. 

Further, the army, formed from the remaining twelve 
tribes, was commanded to invade the land of Canaan, to 
divide it into twelve portions, and to distribute it among 
the tribes by lot. For this task twelve captains were 
chosen, one from every tribe, and were, together with 
Joshua and Eleazar, the high priest, empowered to divide 
the land into twelve equal parts, and distribute it by lot. 
Joshua was chosen for the chief command of the army, in 
asmuch as none but he had the right to consult God in 
emergencies, not like Moses, alone in his tent, or in the 
tabernacle, but through the high priest, to whom only the 
answers of God were revealed. Furthermore, he was em 
powered to execute, and cause the people to obey God s 
commands, transmitted through the high priests; *to find, 
1 See Note 31. 

CHAP, xvii.] 01 s THE HEBREW THEOCRACY. 223 

and to make use of, means for carrying them out ; to choose 
e,s many army captains as he liked ; to make whatever 
choice he thought best ; to send ambassadors in his own 
name ; and, in short, to have the entire control of the war. 
To his office there was no rightful successor indeed, the 
post was only filled by the direct order of the Deity, on oc 
casions of public emergency. In ordinary times, all the 
management of peace and war was vested in the captains 
of the tribes, as I will shortly point out. Lastly, all men 
between the ages of twenty and sixty were ordered to bear 
arms, and form a citizen army, owing allegiance, not to its 
geiieral-in-chief, nor to the high priest, but to Religion and 
to God. The army, or the hosts, were called the army of 
God, or the hosts of God. For this reason God was called 
by the Hebrews the God of Armies ; and the ark of the 
covenant was borne in the midst of the army in important 
battles, when the safety or destruction of the whole people 
hung upon the issue, so that the people might, as it were, 
see their King among them, and put forth all their strength. 

From these directions, left by Moses to his successors, 
we plainly see that he chose administrators, rather than 
despots, to come after him ; for he invested no one with the 
power of consulting God, where he liked and alone, conse 
quently, no one had the power possessed by himself of or 
daining and abrogating laws, of deciding on war or peace, 
of choosing men to fill offices both religious and secular : 
all these are the prerogatives of a sovereign. The high 
priest, indeed, had the right of interpreting laws, and com 
municating the answers of God, but he could not do so 
when he liked, as Moses could, but only when he was asked 
by the general-in- chief of the army, the co incil, or some 
similar authority. The general-in- chief and the council 
could consult God when they liked, but could only receive 
His answers through the high priest ; so that the utterances 
of God, as reported by the high priest, were not decrees, as 
they were when reported by Moses, but only answers ; they 
were accepted by Joshua and the council, and only then had 
the force of commands and decrees. 

The high priest, both in the case of Aaron and of his son 
Eleazar, was chosen by Moses; nor had anyone, after 
Moses death, a right to elect to the office, which became 


hereditary. The general-in-chicf of the army was also 
chosen by Moses, and assumed his functions in virtue of 
the commands, not of the high priest, but of Moses : in- 
deed, after the death of Joshua, the high priest did not 
appoint anyone in his place, and the captains did not con- 
suit God afresh about a general-in- chief, but each retained 
Joshua s power in respect to the contingent of his own 
tribe, and all retained it collectively, in respect to the whole 
army. There seems to have been no need of a general-in- 
chief, except when they were obliged to unite their forces 
against a common enemy. This occurred most frequently 
during the time of Joshua, when they had no fixed dwelling- 
place, and possessed all things in common. After all the 
tribes had gained their territories by right of conquest, and 
had divided their allotted gains, they became separated, 
having no longer their possessions in common, so that the 
need for a single commander ceased, for the different tribes 
should be considered rather in the light of confederated 
states than of bodies of fellow-citizens. In respect to their 
God and their religion, they were fellow-citizens ; but, in 
respect to the rights which one possessed with regard to 
another, they were only confederated : they were, in fact, 
in much the same position (if one excepts the Temple 
common to all) as the United States of the Netherlands. 
The division of property held in common is only another 
phrase for the possession of his share by each of the owners 
singly, and the surrender by the others of their rights over 
such share. This is why Moses elected captains of the 
tribes namely, that when the dominion was divided, each 
might take care of his own part ; consulting God through 
the high priest on the affairs of his tribe, ruling over his 
army, building and fortifying cities, appointing judges, 
attacking the enemies of his own dominion, and having 
complete control over all civil and military affairs. He was 
not bound to acknowledge any superior judge save God, or 
a prophet whom God should expressly send. If he departed 
from the worship of God, the rest of the tribes did not 
arraign him as a subject, but attacked him as an enemy. 
Of this we have examples in Scripture. When Joshua was 

1 Sec Note 32. 


dead, the children of Israel (not a fresh general-in- chief) 
consulted God; it being decided that the tribe of Judah 
should be the first to attack its enemies, the tribe in ques 
tion contracted a single alliance with the tribe of Simeon, 
for uniting their forces, and attacking their common 
enemy, the rest of the tribes not being included in the 
alliance (Judges i. 1, 2, 8). Each tribe separately made 
war against its own enemies, and, according to its pleasure, 
received them as subjects or allies, though it had been 
commanded not to spare them on any conditions, but to de 
stroy them utterly. Such disobedience met with reproof 
from the rest of the tribes, but did not cause the offending 
tribe to be arraigned : it was not considered a sufficient 
reason for proclaiming a civil war, or interfering in one 
another s affairs. But when the tribe of Benjamin offended 
against the others, and so loosened the bonds of peace that 
none of the confederated tribes could find refuge within its 
borders, they attacked it as an enemy, and gaining the vic 
tory over it after three battles, put to death both guilty and 
innocent, according to the laws of war : an act which they 
subsequently bewailed with tardy repentance. 

These examples plainly confirm what we have said con 
cerning the rights of each tribe. Perhaps we shall be 
asked who elected the successors to the captains of each 
tribe ; on this point I can gather no positive information in 
Scripture, but I conjecture that as the tribes were divided 
into families, each headed by its senior member, the senior 
of all these heads of families succeeded by right to the 
office of captain, for Moses chose from among these seniors 
his seventy coadjutors, who formed with himself the supreme 
council. Those who administered the government after the 
death of Joshua were called elders, and elder is a very common 
Hebrew expression in the sense of judge, as I suppose every 
one knows ; however, it is not very important for us to make 
up our minds on this point. It is enough to have shown 
that after the death of Moses no one man wielded all the 
power of a sovereign , as affairs were not all managed by 
one man, nor by a single council, nor by the popular vote, 
but partly by one tribe, partly by the rest in equal shares, 
it is most evident that the government, after the death of 
Moses, was neither monarchic, nor aristocratic, nor popular, 


but, as we have said, Theocratic. The reasons for applying 
this name are : 

I. Because the royal seat of government was the Temple, 
and in respect to it alone, as we have shown, all the tribes 
were fellow-citizens, 

II. Because all the people owed allegiance to God, their 
supreme Judge, to whom only they had promised implicit 
obedience in all things. 

III. Because the general-in-chief or dictator, when there 
was need of such, was elected by none save God alone. 
This was expressly commanded by Moses in the name of 
God (Deut, xix. 15), and witnessed by the actual choice of 
Gideon, of Samson, and of Samuel ; wherefrom we may 
conclude that the other faithful leaders were chosen in the 
same manner, though it is not expressly told us. 

These preliminaries being stated, it is now time to in 
quire the effects of forming a dominion on this plan, and 
to see whether it so effectually kept within bounds both 
rulers and ruled, that the former were never tyrannical 
and the latter never rebellious. 

Those who administer or possess governing power, always 
try to surround their high-handed actions with a cloak of 
legality, and to persuade the people that they act from 
good motives ; this they are easily able to effect when they 
are the sole interpreters of the law ; for it is evident that 
they are thus able to assume a far greater freedom to carry 
out their wishes and desires than if the interpretation of 
the law is vested in someone else, or if the laws were so 
self-evident that no one could be in doubt as to their mean- 
ing. We thus see that the power of evil-doing was greatly 
curtailed for the Hebrew captains by the fact that the 
whole interpretation of the law was vested in the Levites 
(Deut. xxi. 5), who, on their part, had no share in the 
government, and depended for all their support and con 
sideration on a correct interpretation of the laws entrusted 
to them. Moreover, the whole people was commanded to 
come together at a certain place every seven years and be 
instructed in the law by the high-priest ; further, each in 
dividual was bidden to read the book of the law through 
and through continually with scrupulous care. (Deut xxxi. 
9, and vi. 7.) 


The captains were thus for their own sates "bound to take 
great care to administer everything according to the laws laid 
down, and well known to all, if they wished to be held in 
high honour by the people, who would regard them as the 
administrators of God s dominion, and as God s vicegerents; 
otherwise they could not have escaped all the virulence of 
theological hatred. There was another very important 
check on the unbridled license of the captains, in the fact, 
that the army was formed from the whole body of the 
citizens, between the ages of twenty and sixty, without 
exception, and that the captains were not able to hire any 
foreign soldiery. This I say was very important, for it is 
well known that princes can oppress their peoples with the 
single aid of the soldiery in their pay ; while there is nothing 
more formidable to them than the freedom of citizen soldiers, 
who have established the freedom and glory of their country 
by their valour, their toil, and their blood. Thus Alexander, 
when he was about to make war on Darius, a second time, 
after hearing the advice of Parmenio, did not chide him 
who gave the advice, but Polysperchon, who was standing 
by. For, as Curtius says (iv. 13), he did not venture to re 
proach Parmenio again after having shortly before reproved 
him too sharply. This freedom of the Macedonians, which 
he so dreaded, he was not able to subdue till after the 
number of captives enlisted in the army surpassed that of 
his own people : then, but not till then, he gave rein to his 
anger so long checked by the independence of his chief 

If this independence of citizen soldiers can restrain the 
princes of ordinary states who are wont to usurp the whole 
glory of victories, it must have been still more effectual 
against the Hebrew captains, whose soldiers were fighting, 
not for the glory of a prince, but for the glory of God, and 
who did not go forth to battle till the Divine assent had 
been given. 

We must also remember that the Hebrew captains were 
associated only by the bonds of religion : therefore, if any 
one of them had transgressed, and begun to violate the 
Divine right, he might have been treated by the rest as an 
enemy and lawfully subdued. 

An additional check may be found in the fear of a new 


prophet arising, for if a man of unblemished life could show 
by certain signs that he was really a prophet, he ipso facto 
obtained the sovereign right to rule, which was given to 
him, as to Moses formerly, in the name of God, as revealed 
to himself alone ; not merely through the high priest, as in 
the case of the captains. There is no doubt that such an 
one w r ould easily be able to enlist an oppressed people in 
his cause, and by trifling signs persuade them of anything 
he wished : on the other hand, if affairs were well ordered, 
the captain would be able to make provision in time ; that 
the prophet should be submitted to his approval, and be 
examined whether he were really of unblemished life, and 
possessed indisputable signs of his mission : also, whether 
the teaching he proposed to set forth in the name of the 
Lord agreed with received doctrines, and the general laws 
of the country ; if his credentials were insufficient, or his 
doctrines new, he could lawfully be put to death, or else 
received on the captain s sole responsibility and authority. 

Again, the captains were not superior to the others in 
nobility or birth, but only administered the government in 
virtue of their age and personal qualities. Lastly, neither 
captains nor army had any reason for preferring war to 
peace. The army, as we have stated, consisted entirely of 
citizens, so that affairs were managed by the same persons 
both in peace and war. The man who was a soldier in the 
camp was a citizen in the market-place, he w r ho was a leader 
in the camp was a judge in the law courts, he who was a 
general in the camp was a ruler in the state. Thus no one 
could desire war for its own sake, but only for the sake of 
preserving peace and liberty ; possibly the captains avoided 
change as far as possible, so as not to be obliged to consult 
the high priest and submit to the indignity of standing in 
his presence. 

So much for the precautions for keeping the captains 
within bounds. We must now look for the restraints upon 
the people : these, however, are very clearly indicated in the 
very groundwork of the social fabric. 

Anyone who gives the subject the slightest attention, 
will see that the state was so ordered as to inspire the most 
ardent patriotism in the hearts of the citizens, so that the 
latter would be very hard to persuade to betray their country, 



and be ready to endure anything rather than submit to a 
foreign yoke. After they had transferred their right to 
God, they thought that their kingdom belonged to God, 
and that they themselves were God s children. Other 
nations they looked upon as God s enemies, and regarded 
with intense hatred (which they took to be piety, see Psalm 
cxxxix. 21, 22) : nothing would have been more abhorrent 
to them than swearing allegiance to a foreigner, and pro 
mising him obedience : nor could they conceive any greater 
or more execrable crime than the betrayal of their country, 
the kingdom of the God whom they adored. 

It was considered wicked for anyone to settle outside of 
the country, inasmuch as the worship of God by which 
they were bound could not be carried on elsewhere : their 
own land alone was considered holy, the rest of the earth 
unclean and profane. 

David, who was forced to live in exile, complained before 
Saul as follows : " But if they be the children of men who 
have stirred thee up against me, cursed be they before the 
Lord ; for they have driven me out this day from abiding 
in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, Go, serve other gods." 
(1 Sam. xxvi. 19.) For the same reason no citizen, as we 
should especially remark, was ever sent into exile : he who 
sinned was liable to punishment, but not to disgrace. 

Thus the love of the Hebrews for their country was not 
only patriotism, but also piety, and was cherished and 
nurtured by daily rites till, like their hatred of other nations, 
it must have passed into their nature. Their daily worship 
was not only different from that of other nations (as it 
might well be, considering that they were a peculiar people 
and entirely apart from the rest), it was absolutely con 
trary. Such daily reprobation naturally gave rise to a 
lasting hatred, deeply implanted in the heart : for of all 
hatreds none is more deep and tenacious than that which 
springs from extreme devoutness or piety, and is itself 
cherished as pious. Nor was a general cause lacking for 
inflaming such hatred more and more, inasmuch as it was 
reciprocated ; the surrounding nations regarding the Jews 
with a hatred just as intense. 

How great was the effect of all these causes, namely, 
freedom from man s dominion ; devotion to their country ; 


absolute rights over all other men ; a hatred not only per- 
mitted but pious ; a contempt for their fellow-men ; the 
singularity of their customs and religious rites ; the effect, 
I repeat, of all these causes in strengthening the hearts of 
the Jews to bear all things for their country, with ex 
traordinary constancy and valour, will at once be discerned 
by reason and attested by experience. Never, so long as 
the city was standing, could they endure to remain under 
foreign dominion ; and therefore they called Jerusalem " a 
rebellious city" (Ezra iv. 12). Their state after its re- 
establishment (which was a mere shadow of the first, for 
the high priests had usurped the rights of the tribal 
captains) was, with great difficulty, destroyed by the 
Romans, as Tacitus bears witness (Hist. ii. *4) : " Ves 
pasian had closed the war against the Jews, abandoning 
the siege of Jerusalem as an enterprise difficult and 
arduous, rather from the character of the people and the 
obstinacy of their superstition, than from the strength left 
to the besieged for meeting their necessities." But besides 
these characteristics, which are merely ascribed by an in 
dividual opinion, there was one feature peculiar to this state 
and of great importance in retaining the affections of the 
citizens, and checking all thoughts of desertion, or aban 
donment of the country : namely, self-interest, the strength 
and life of all human action. This was peculiarly engaged 
in the Hebrew state, for nowhere else did citizens possess 
their goods so securely as did the subjects of this commu 
nity, for the latter possessed as large a share in the land 
and the fields as did their chiefs, and were owners of their 
plots of ground in perpetuity ; for if any man was compelled 
by poverty to sell his farm or his pasture, he received it 
back again intact at the year of jubilee: there were other 
similar enactments against the possibility of alienating real 

Again, poverty was nowhere more endurable than in a 
country where duty towards one s neighbour, that is, one s 
fellow-citizen, was practised with the utmost piety, as a 
means of gaining the favour of God the King. Thus the 
Hebrew citizens would nowhere be so well off as in their 
own country ; outside its limits they met with nothing but 
loss and disgrace. 


The following considerations were of weight, not only in 
keeping them at home, but also in preventing civil war and 
removing causes of strife : no one was bound to serve his 
equal, but only to serve God, while charity and love to 
wards fellow-citizens was accounted the highest piety ; this 
last feeling was not a little fostered by the general hatred 
with which they regarded foreign nations and were regarded 
by them. Furthermore, the strict discipline of obedience 
in which they were brought up, was a very important 
factor ; for they were bound to carry on all their actions 
according to the set rules of the law: a man might not 
plough when he liked, but only at certain times, in certain 
years, and with one sort of beast at a time ; so, too, he 
might only sow and reap in a certain method and season- 
in fact, his whole life was one long school of obedience (see 
Chap. V. on the use of ceremonies) ; such a habit was thus 
engendered, that conformity seemed freedom instead of ser 
vitude, and men desired what was commanded rather than 
what was forbidden. This result was not a little aided by 
the fact that the people were bound, at certain seasons of 
the year, to give themselves up to rest and rejoicing, not 
for their own pleasure, but in order that they might wor 
ship God cheerfully. 

Three times in the year they feasted before the Lord ; on 
the seventh day of every week they were bidden to abstain 
from all work and to rest ; besides these, there were other 
occasions when innocent rejoicing and feasting were not 
only allowed but enjoined. I do not think any better 
means of influencing men s minds could be devised ; for 
there is no more powerful attraction than joy springing from 
devotion, a mixture of admiration and love. It was not 
easy to be wearied by constant repetition, for the rites on 
the various festivals were varied and recurred seldom. We 
may add the deep reverence for the Temple which all most 
religiously fostered, 011 account of the peculiar rites and 
duties that they were obliged to perform before approaching 
thither. Even now, Jews cannot read without horror of the 
crime of Manasseh, who dared to place an idol in the Temple. 
The laws, scrupulously preserved in the inmost sanctuary, 
were objects of equal reverence to the people. Popular 
reports and misconceptions were, therefore, very little to bo 


feared in this quarter, for no one dared decide on sacred 
matters, but all felt bound to obey, without consulting 
their reason, all the commands giv r en by the answers of God 
received in the Temple, and all the laws which God had 

I think I have now explained clearly, though briefly, the 
main features of the Hebrew commonwealth. I must now 
inquire into the causes which led the people so often to fall 
away from the law, which brought about their frequent 
subjection, and, finally, the complete destruction of tht-ir 
dominion. Perhaps I shall be told that it sprang from 
their hardness of heart ; but this is childish, for why 
should this people be more hard of heart than others ; was 
it by nature ? 

But nature forms individuals, not peoples ; the latter are 
only distinguishable by the difference of their language, 
their customs, and their laws ; while from the two last 
i.e., customs and laws, it may arise that they have a 
peculiar disposition, a peculiar manner of life, and peculiar 
prejudices. If, then, the Hebrews were harder of heart 
than other nations, the fault lay with their laws or customs. 

This is certainly true, in the sense that, if God had 
wished their dominion to be more lasting, He would have 
given them other rites and laws, and would have insti 
tuted a different form of government. We can, there 
fore, only say that their God was angry with them, not 
only, as Jeremiah says, from the building of the city, but 
even from the founding of their laws. 

This is borne witness to by Ezekiel xx. 25 : " Wherefore 
I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judg 
ments whereby they should not live ; and I polluted them 
in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the 
fire all that openeth the womb ; that I might make them 
desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the 

In order that we may understand these words, and the 
destruction of the Hebrew commonwealth, we must bear in 
mind that it had at first been intended to entrust the whole 
duties of the priesthood to the firstborn, and not to the 
Levites (see Numb. viii. 17). It was only when all the 
tribes, except the I/jvites, worshipped the golden calf, that 


the firstborn were rejected and defiled, and the Levites 
chosen in their stead (Dent. x. 8). When I reflect on this 
change, I feel disposed to break forth with the words of 
Tacitus. God s object at that time was not the safety of 
the Jews, but vengeance. I am greatly astonished that the 
celestial mind was so inflamed with anger that it ordained 
laws, which always are supposed to promote the honour, 
well-being, and security of a people, with the purpose of 
vengeance, for the sake of punishment ; so that the laws do 
not seem so much laws that is, the safeguard of the 
people as pains and penalties. 

The gifts which the people were obliged to bestow on the 
Levites and priests the redemption of the firstborn, the 
poll-tax due to the Levites, the privilege possessed by the 
latter of the sole performance of sacred rites all these, I 
say, were a continual reproach to the people, a continual 
reminder of their defilement and rejection. Moreover, we 
may be sure that the Levites were for ever heaping re 
proaches upon them : for among so many thousands there 
must have been many importunate dabblers in theology. 
Hence the people got into the way of watching the acts of 
the Levites, who were but human; of accusing the whole body 
of the faults of one member, and continually murmuring. 

Besides this, there was the obligation to keep in idleness 
men hateful to them, and connected by no ties of blood. 
Especially would this seem grievous when provisions were 
dear. What wonder, then, if in times of peace, when 
striking miracles had ceased, and no men of paramount 
authority were forthcoming, the irritable and greedy temper 
of the people began to wax cold, and at length to fall away 
from a worship, which, though Divine, was also humilia 
ting, and even hostile, and to seek after something fresh ; 
or can we be surprised that the captains, who always adopt 
the popular course, in order to gain the sovereign power for 
themselves by enlisting the sympathies of the people, and 
alienating the high priest, should have yielded to their de 
mands, and introduced a new worship ? If the state had 
been formed according to the original intention, the rights 
and honour of all the tribes would have been equal, and 
everything would have rested on a firm basis. Who is 
there who would willingly violate the religious rights of his 


kindred ? What could a man desire more than to support 
his own "brothers and parents, thus fulfilling the duties of 
religion ? Who would not rejoice in being taught by them 
the "interpretation of the laws, and receiving through them 
the answers of God ? 

The tribes would thus have been united by a far closer 
bond, if all alike had possessed the right to the priesthood. 
All danger would have been obviated, if the choice of the 
Levites had not been dictated by anger and revenge. But, 
as we have said, the Hebrews had offended their God, Who, 
as Ezekiel says, polluted them in their own gifts by reject- 
ing all that openeth the womb, so that He might destroy 

This passage is also confirmed by their history. As soon 
as the people in the wilderness began to live in ease and 
plenty, certain men of no mean birth began to rebel against 
the choice of the Levites, and to make it a cause for be 
lieving that Moses had not acted by the commands of God, 
but for his own good pleasure, inasmuch as he had chosen 
his own tribe before all the rest, and had bestowed the 
high priesthood in perpetuity on his own brother. ^ They, 
therefore, stirred up a tumult, and came to him, crying out 
that all men were equally sacred, and that he had exalted 
himself above his fellows wrongfully. Moses was not ablo 
to pacify them with reasons ; but by the intervention of a 
miracle, in proof of the faith, they all perished. A fresh 
sedition then arose among the whole people, who believed 
that their champions had not been put to death by the 
judgment of God, but by the device of Moses. After a 
great slaughter, or pestilence, the rising subsided from 
inanition, but in such a manner that all preferred death to 
life under such conditions. 

We should rather say that sedition ceased than that 
harmony was re-established. This is witnessed by Scrip 
ture (Dent. xxxi. 21), where God, after predicting to Moses 
that the people after his death will fall away from the 
Divine worship, speaks thus : " For I know their imagina 
tion which they go about, even now before I have brought 
them into the land which I sware ; " and, a little while 
after (xxxi. 27), Moses says: "For I know thy rebellion 
and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you 


this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord ; and 
how much more after my death ! " 

Indeed, it happened according to his words, as we all 
know. Great changes, extreme license, luxury, and hard 
ness of heart grew up ; things went from bad to worse, till 
at last the people, after being frequently conquered, canie 
to an open rupture with the Divine right, and wished for a 
mortal king, so that the seat of government might be the 
Court, instead of the Temple, and that the tribes might 
remain fellow- citizens in respect to their king, instead of 
in respect to Divine right and the high priesthood. 

A vast material for new seditions was thus produced, 
eventually resulting in the ruin of the entire state. Kings 
are above all things jealous of a precarious rule, and can 
in nowise brook a dominion within their own. The first 
monarchs, being chosen from the ranks of private citizens, 
were content with the amount of dignity to which they had 
risen ; but their sons, who obtained the throne by right of 
inheritance, began gradually to introduce changes, so as to 
get all the sovereign rights into their own hands. This 
they were generally unable to accomplish, so long as the 
right of legislation did not rest with them, but with the 
high priest, who kept the laws in the sanctuary, and inter 
preted them to the people. The kings were thus bound to 
obey the laws as much as were the subjects, and were un 
able to abrogate them, or to ordain new laws of equal 
authority ; moreover, they were prevented by the Levites 
from administering the affairs of religion, king and subject 
being alike unclean. Lastly, the whole safety of their do 
minion depended on the will of one man, if that man ap 
peared to be a prophet; and of this they had seen an 
example, namely, how completely Samuel had been able to 
command Saul, and how easily, because of a single dis 
obedience, he had been able to transfer the right of 
sovereignty to David. Thus the kings found a dominion 
within their own, and wielded a precarious sovereignty. 

In order to surmount these difficulties, they allowed other 
temples to be dedicated to the gods, so that there might be 
no further need of consulting the Levites ; they also sought 
out many who prophesied in the name of God, so that they 
might have creatures of their own to oppose to the true 


prophets. However, in spite of all their attempts, they 
never attained their end. For the prophets, prepared 
against every emergency, waited for a favourable opportu 
nity, such as the beginning of a new reign, which is always 
precarious, while the memory of the previous reign remains 
green. At these times they could easily pronounce by 
Divine authority that the king was tyrannical, and could 
produce a champion of distinguished virtue to vindicate 
the Divine right, and lawfully to claim dominion, or a share 
in it. Still, not even so could the prophets effect much. 
They could, indeed, remove a tyrant ; but there were 
reasons which prevented them from doing more than setting 
up, at great cost of civil bloodshed, another tyrant in his 
stead. Of discords and civil wars there was no end, for the 
causes for the violation of Divine right remained always 
the same, and could only be removed by a complete re 
modelling of the state. 

We have now seen how religion was introduced into the 
Hebrew commonwealth, and how the dominion might have 
lasted for ever, if the just wrath of the Lawgiver had 
allowed it. As this was impossible, it was bound in time 
to perish. I am now speaking only of the first common 
wealth, for the second was a mere shadow of the first, inas 
much as the people were bound by the rights of the Persians 
to whom they were subject. After the restoration of free 
dom, the high priests usurped the rights of the secular 
chiefs, and thus obtained absolute dominion. The priests 
were inflamed with an intense desire to wield the powers 
of the sovereignty and the high priesthood at the same time. 
I have, therefore, no need to speak further of the second 
commonwealth. Whether the first, in so far as we deem it 
to have been durable, is capable of imitation, and whether 
it would be pious to copy it as far as possible, will appear 
from what follows. I wish only to draw attention, as a crown 
ing conclusion, to the principle indicated already namely, 
that it is evident, from what we have stated in this chapter, 
that the Divine right, or the right of religion, originates 
in a compact : without such compact, none but natural 
rights exist. The Hebrews were not bound by their religion 
to evince any pious care for other nations not included in 
the compact, but only for their own fellow-citizc us. 




A LTHOUGH the commonwealth of the Hebrews, as we 
** have conceived it, might have lasted for ever, it would 
be impossible to imitate it at the present day, nor would it 
be advisable so to do. If a people wished to transfer their 
rights to God it would be necessary to make an express 
covenant with Him, and for this would be needed not only 
the consent of those transferring their rights, but also the 
consent of God. God, however, has revealed through his 
Apostles that the covenant of God is no longer written in 
ink, or on tables of stone, but with the Spirit of God in the 
fleshy tables of the heart. 

Furthermore, such a form of government would only be 
available for those who desire to have no foreign relations, 
but to shut themselves up within their own frontiers, and 
to live apart from the rest of the world ; it would be use 
less to men who must have dealings with other nations ; 
so that the cases where it could be adopted are very few 

Nevertheless, though it could not be copied in its en- 
tirety, it possessed many excellent features which might 
be brought to our notice, and perhaps imitated with ad 
vantage. My intention, however, is not to write a trea 
tise on forms of government, so I will pass over most of 
such points in silence, and will only touch on those which 
bear upon my purpose. 

God s kingdom is not infringed upon by the choice of an 
earthly ruler endowed with sovereign rights ; for after the 
Hebrews had transferred their rights to God, they con 
ferred the sovereign right of ruling on Moses, investing 
him with the sole power of instituting and abrogating laws 
in the name of God, of choosing priests, of judging, of 


teaching, of punisliing in fact, all the prerogatives of an 
absolute monarch. 

Again, though the priests were the interpreters of the 
laws, they had no power to judge the citizens, or to excom 
municate anyone : this could only he done by the judges 
and chiefs chosen from among the people. A consideration 
of the successes and the histories of the Hebrews will bring 
to light other considerations worthy of note. To wit- 

I. That there were no religious sects, till after the high 
priests, in the second commonwealth, possessed the autho 
rity to make decrees, and transact the business of govern 
ment. In order that such authority might last for ever, 
the high priests usurped the rights of secular rulers, and at 
last wished to be styled kings. The reason for this is 
ready to hand ; in the first commonwealth no decrees could 
bear the name of the high priest, for he had no right to 
ordain laws, but only to give the answers of God to ques 
tions asked by the captains or the councils: he had, there 
fore, no motive for making changes in the law, but took 
care, on the contrary, to administer and guard what had 
already been received and accepted. His only means of 
preserving his freedom in safety against the will of the 
captains lay in cherishing the law intact. After the high 
priests had assumed the power of carrying on the govern 
ment, and added the rights of secular rulers to those they 
already possessed, each one began both in things religious 
and in things secular, to seek for the glorification of his 
own name, settling everything by sacerdotal authority, and 
issuing every day, concerning ceremonies, faith, and all else, 
new decrees which he sought to make as sacred and autho 
ritative as the laws of Moses. Religion thus sank into a 
degrading superstition, while the true meaning and inter 
pretation of the laws became corrupted. Furthermore, 
while the high priests were paving their way to the secular 
rule just after the restoration, they attempted to gain 
popular favour by assenting to every demand ; approving 
whatever the people did, however impious, and accommo 
dating Scripture to the very depraved current morals. 
Malachi bears witness to this in no measured terms : he 
chides the priests of bis time as despisers of the name of 
God, and then goes on with his invective as follows (Mai. 


ii. 7, 8) : " For the priest s lips should keep knowledge, and 
they should seek the law at his mouth : for he is the mes 
senger of the Lord of hosts. But ye are departed out of 
the way ; ye have caused many to stumble at the law, ye 
have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of 
hosts." He further accuses them of interpreting the laws 
according to their own pleasure, and paying no respect to 
God but only to persons. It is certain that the high priests 
were never so cautious in their conduct as to escape the re 
mark of the more shrewd among the people, for the latter 
were at length emboldened to assert that no laws ought to 
be kept save those that were written, and that the decrees 
which the Pharisees (consisting, as Josephus says in his 
" Antiquities," chiefly of the common people), were deceived 
into calling the traditions of the fathers, should not be ob 
served at all. However this may be, we can in nowise 
doubt that flattery of the high priest, the corruption of re 
ligion and the laws, and the enormous increase of the 
extent of the last-named, gave very great and frequent 
occasion for disputes and altercations impossible to allay. 
When men begin to quarrel with all the ardour of super 
stition, and the magistracy to back up one side or the 
other, they can never come to a compromise, but are bound 
to split into sects. 

II. It is worthy of remark that the prophets, who were 
in a private station of life, rather irritated than reformed 
mankind by their freedom of warning, rebuke, and censure ; 
whereas the kings, by their reproofs and punishments, could 
always produce an effect. The prophets were often intoler 
able even to pious kings, on account of the authority they 
assumed for judging whether an action was right or wrong, 
or for reproving the kings themselves if they dared to 
transact any business, whether public or private, without 
prophetic sanction. King Asa who, according to the tes 
timony of Scripture, reigned piously, put the prophet 
Hanani into a prison-house because he had ventured freely 
to chide and reprove him for entering into a covenant with 
the king of Armenia. 

Other examples might be cited, tending to prove that 
religion gained more harm than good by such freedom, not 
to speak of the further consequence, that if the prophets 


had retained their rights, great civil wars would have 

III. It is remarkable that during all the period, during 
which the people held the reins of power, there was only 
one civil war, and that one was completely extinguished, 
the conquerors taking such pity on the conquered, that they 
endeavoured in every way to reinstate them in their former 
dignity and power. But after that the people, little accus 
tomed to kings, changed its first form of government into 
a monarchy, civil war raged almost continuously ; and 
battles were so fierce as to exceed all others recorded ; in 
one engagement (taxing our faith to the utmost) five hun 
dred thousand Israelites were slaughtered by the men of 
Judah, and in another the Israelites slew great numbers of 
the men of Judah (the figures are not given in Scripture), 
almost razed to the ground the walls of Jerusalem, and 
sacked the Temple in their unbridled fury. At length, 
laden with the spoils of their brethren, satiated with blood, 
they took hostages, and leaving the king in his well-nigh 
devastated kingdom, laid down their arms, relying on the 
weakness rather than the good faith of their foes. A few 
years after, the men of Judah, with recruited strength, 
again took the field, but w r ere a second time beaten by the 
Israeli tes, and slain to the number of a hundred and twenty 
thousand, two hundred thousand of their wives and children 
were led into captivity, and a great booty again seized. Worn 
out with these and similar battles set forth at length in their 
histories, the Jews at length fell a prey to their enemies. 

Furthermore, if we reckon up the times during which 
peace prevailed under each form of government, we shall 
find a great discrepancy. Before the monarchy forty years 
and more often passed, and once eighty years (an almost 
unparalleled period), without any war, foreign or civil. 
After the kings acquired sovereign power, the fighting was 
no longer for peace and liberty, but for glory ; accordingly 
we find that they all, with the exception of Solomon (whose 
virtue and wisdom would be better displayed in peace than 
in war) waged war, and finally a fatal desire for power 
gained ground, which, in many cases, made the path to the 
throne a bloody one. 

Lastly, the laws, during the rule of the people, remained 


uncorrupted and were studiously observed. Before the 
monarchy there were very few prophets to admonish the 
people, but after the establishment of kings there were a 
great number at the same time. Obadiah saved a hundred 
from death and hid them away, lest they should be slain 
with the rest. The people, so far as we can see, were never 
deceived by false prophets till after the power had been 
vested in kings, whose creatures many of the prophets were. 
Again, the people, whose heart was generally proud or 
humble according to its circumstances, easily corrected it 
self under misfortune, turned again to God, restored His 
laws, and so freed itself from all peril; but the kings, 
whose hearts were always equally puffed up, and who could 
not be corrected without humiliation, clung pertinaciously 
to their vices, even till the last overthrow of the city. 
We may now clearly see from what I have said : 

I. How hurtful to religion and the state is the concession to 
ministers of religion of any power of issuing decrees or trans 
acting the business of government : how, on the contrary, 
far greater stability is afforded, if the said ministers are 
only allowed to give answers to questions duly put to them, 
and are, as a rule, obliged to preach and practise the re 
ceived and accepted doctrines. 

II. How dangerous it is to refer to Divine right matters 
merely speculative and subject or liable to dispute. The 
most tyrannical governments are those which make crimes 
of opinions, for everyone has an inalienable right over his 
thoughts nay, such a state of things leads to the rule of 
popular passion. 

Pontius Pilate made concession to the passion of the 
Pharisees in consenting to the crucifixion of Christ, whom 
he knew to be innocent. Again, the Pharisees, in order to 
shake the position of men richer than themselves, began to 
set on foot questions of religion, and accused the Sadducees 
of impiety, and, following their example, the vilest hypo 
crites, stirred, as they pretended, by the same holy wrath 
which they called zeal for the Lord, persecuted men whose 
unblemished character and distinguished virtue had excited 
the popular hatred, publicly denounced their opinions, and 
inflamed the fierce passions of the people against them. 

r ,Chis wanton licence being cloaked with the specious garb 


of religion could not easily be repressed, especially when 
the sovereign authorities introduced a sect of which they 
were not the head ; they were then regarded not as inter 
preters of Divine right, but as sectarians that is, as per 
sons recognizing the right of Divine interpretation assumed 
by the leaders of the sect. The authority of the magistrates 
thus became of little account in such matters in comparison 
with the authority of sectarian leaders before whose inter 
pretations kings were obliged to bow. 

To avoid such evils in a state, there is no safer way than 
to make piety and religion to consist in acts only that is, 
in the practice of justice and charity, leaving everyone s 
judgment in other respects free. But I will speak of this 
more at length presently. 

III. We see how necessary it is, both in the interests of 
the state and in the interests of religion, to confer on the 
sovereign power the right of deciding what is lawful or the 
reverse. If this right of judging actions could not be given 
to the very prophets of God without great injury to the 
state and religion, how much less should it be entrusted to 
those who can neither foretell the future nor work miracles ! 
But this again I will treat of more fully hereafter. 

IV. Lastly, we see how disastrous it is for a people un 
accustomed to kings, and possessing a complete code of 
laws, to set up a monarchy. Neither can the subjects 
brook such a sway, nor the royal authority submit to laws 
and popular rights set up by any one inferior to itself. Still 
less can a king be expected to defend such laws, for they 
were not framed to support his dominion, but the dominion 
of the peoplo, or some council which formerly ruled, so 
that in guarding the popular rights the king would seem to 
be a slave rather than a master. The representative of a 
new monarchy will employ all his zeal in attempting to 
frame new laws, so as to wrest the rights of dominion to 
his own use, and to reduce the people till they find it easier 
to increase than to curtail the royal prerogative. I must 
not, however, omit to state that it is no less dangerous to 
remove a monarch, though he is on all hands admitted to 
be a tyrant. For his people are accustomed to royal autho 
rity and will obey no other, despising and mocking at any 
le^s auonst control. 


It is therefore necessary, as tlie prophets discovered of 
old, if one king be removed, that he should be replaced by 
another, who will be a tyrant from necessity rather than 
choice. For how will he be able to endure the sight of the 
hands of the citizens reeking with royal blood, and to re 
joice in their regicide as a glorious exploit? Was not the 
deed perpetrated as an example and warning for himself ? 

If he really wishes to be king, and not to acknowledge the 
people as the judge of kings and the master of himself, or 
to wield a precarious sway, he must avenge the death of 
his predecessor, making an example for his own sake, lest 
the people should venture to repeat a similar crime. He 
will not, however, be able easily to avenge the death of the 
tyrant by the slaughter of citizens unless he defends the 
cause of tyranny and approves the deeds of his predecessor, 
thus following in his footsteps. 

Hence it comes to pass that peoples have often changed 
their tyrants, but never removed them or changed the mo 
narchical form of government into any other. 

The English people furnish us with a terrible example of 
this fact. They sought how to depose their monarch under 
the forms of law, but when he had been removed, they were 
utterly unable to change the form of government, and after 
much bloodshed only brought it about, that a new monarch 
should be hailed under a different name (as though it had 
been a mere question of names) ; this new monarch could 
only consolidate his power by completely destroying the 
royal stock, putting to death the king s friends, real or sup 
posed, and disturbing with war the peace which might en 
courage discontent, in order that the populace might be 
engrossed with novelties and divert its mind from brooding 
over the slaughter of the king. At last, however, the 
people reflected that it had accomplished nothing for the 
good of the country beyond violating the rights of the law 
ful king and changing everything for the worse. It there 
fore decided to retrace its steps as soon as possible, and 
never rested till it had seen a complete restoration of the 
original state of affairs. 

It may perhaps be objected that the Kunian people was 
easily able to remove its tyrants, but I gather from its his 
tory a strong confirmation of iny contention. Though the 


Roman people was much more than ordinarily capable of re 
moving their tyrants and changing their form of govern 
ment, inasmuch as it held in its own hands the power of 
electing its king and his successor, and being composed of 
rebels and criminals had not long been used to the royal 
yoke (out of its six kings it had put to death three), never 
theless it could accomplish nothing beyond electing several 
tyrants in place of one, who kept it groaning under a con 
tinual state of war, both foreign and civil, till at last it 
changed its government again to a form differing from 
monarchy, as in England, only in name. 

As for the United States of the Netherlands, they have 
never, as we know, had a king, but only counts, who never 
attained the full rights of dominion. The States of the 
Netherlands evidently acted as principals in the settlement 
made by them at the time of the Earl of Leicester s 
mission: they always reserved for themselves the authority 
to keep the counts up to their duties, and the power to 
preserve this authority and the liberty of the citizens. 
They had ample means of vindicating their rights if their 
rulers should prove tyrannical, and could impose such re 
straints that nothing could be done without their consent 
and approval. 

Thus the rights of sovereign power have always been 
vested in the States, though the last count endeavoured to 
usurp them. It is therefore little likely that the States 
should give them up, especially as they have just restored 
their original dominion, lately almost lost. 

These examples, then, confirm us in our belief, that 
every dominion should retain its original form, and, indeed, 
cannot change it without danger of the utter ruin of the 
whole state. Such are the points I have here thought 
worthy of remark. 




WHEN I said that the possessors of sovereign power 
have rights over everything, and that all rights are 
dependent on their decree, I did not merely mean temporal 
rights, but also spiritual rights ; of the latter, no less than the 
former, they ought to be the interpreters and the champions. 
I wish to draw special attention to this point, and to discuss 
it fully in this chapter, because many persons deny that 
the right of deciding religious questions belongs to the 
sovereign power, and refuse to acknowledge it as the inter 
preter of Divine right. They accordingly assume full 
licence to accuse and arraign it, nay, even to excommuni 
cate it from the Church, as Ambrosius treated the Emperor 
Theodosius in old time. However, I will show later on in 
this chapter that they take this means of dividing the go 
vernment, and paving the way to their own ascendency. I 
wish, however, first to point out that religion acquires its 
force as law solely from the decrees of the sovereign. God 
has no special kingdom among men except in so far as He 
reigns through temporal rulers. Moreover, the rites of re 
ligion and the outward observances of piety should be in 
accordance with the public peace and well-being, and should 
therefore be determined by the sovereign power alone. I 
speak here only of the outward observances of piety and 
the external rites of religion, not of piety itself, nor of the 
inward worship of God, nor the means by which the mind 
is inwardly led to do homage to God in singleness of heart. 
Inward worship of God and piety in itself are within the 
sphere of everyone s private rights, and cannot be alienated 
(as I showed at the end of Chapter VIL). What I here 


mean by tlie kingdom of God is, I think, sufficiently clear 
from what has been said in Chapter XTV. I there showed 
that a man best fulfils God s law who worships Him, ac 
cording to His command, through acts of justice and 
charity ; it follows, therefore, that wherever justice and 
charity have the force of law and ordinance, there is God s 

I recognize no difference between the cases where God 
teaches and commands the practice of justice and charity 
through our natural faculties, and those where He makes 
special revelations ; nor is the form of the revelation of im 
portance so long as such practice is revealed and becomes 
a sovereign and supreme law to men. If, therefore, I show 
that justice and charity can only acquire the force of right 
and law through the rights of rulers, I shall be able readily 
to arrive at the conclusion (seeing that the rights of rulers 
are in the possession of the sovereign), that religion can 
only acquire the force of right by means of those who have 
the right to command, and that God only rules among men 
through the instrumentality of earthly potentates. It 
follows from what has been said, that the practice of justice 
and charity only acquires the force of law through the 
rights of the sovereign authority; for we showed in 
Chapter XVI. that in the state of nature reason has no 
more rights than desire, but that men living either by the 
laws of the former or the laws of the latter, possess rights 
co-extensive with their powers. 

For this reason we could not conceive sin to exist in the 
state of nature, nor imagine God as a judge punishing 
man s transgressions ; but we supposed all things to hap 
pen according to the general laws of universal nature, there 
being no difference between pious and impious, between 
him that was pure (as Solomon says) and him that was 
impure, because there was no possibility either of justice or 

In order that the true doctrines of reason, that is (as wo 
showed in Chapter IV.), the true Divine doctrines might 
obtain absolutely the force of law and right, it was necessary 
that each individual should cede his natural right, and 
transfer it either to society as a whole, or to a certain body 
of men, or to one man. Then, and not till then, does it first 


dawn upon us what is justice and what is injustice, what is 
equity and what is iniquity. 

Justice, therefore, and absolutely all the precepts of 
reason, including love towards one s neighbour, receive the 
force of laws and ordinances solely through the rights of 
dominion, that is (as we showed in the same chapter) solely 
on the decree of those who possess the right to rule. 
Inasmuch as the kingdom of God consists entirely in rights 
applied to justice and charity or to true religion, it follows 
that (as we asserted) the kingdom of God can only exist 
among men through the means of the sovereign powers ; 
nor does it make any difference whether religion be appre 
hended by our natural faculties or by revelation : the argu 
ment is sound in both cases, inasmuch as religion is one 
and the same, and is equally revealed by God, whatever be 
the manner in which it becomes known to men. 

Thus, in order that the religion revealed by the prophets 
might have the force of law among the Jews, it was ne 
cessary that every man of them should yield up his 
natural right, and that all should, with one accord, agree 
that they would only obey such commands as God should 
reveal to them through the prophets. Just as we have 
shown to take place in a democracy, where men with one 
consent agree to live according to the dictates of reason. 
Although the Hebrews furthermore transferred their right 
to God Ahey were able to do so rather in theory than in 
practice, for, as a matter of fact (as we pointed out above) 
they absolutely retained the right of dominion till they 
transferred it to Moses, who in his turn became absolute 
king, so that it was only through him that God reigned 
over the Hebrews. For this reason (namely,, that religion 
only acquires the force of law by means of the sovereign 
power) Moses was not able to punish those who, before the 
covenant, and consequently while still in possession of their 
rights, violated the Sabbath (Exod. xvi. 27), but was able 
todo so after the covenant (Numb. xv. 36), because every 
one had then yielded up his natural rights, and the ordi 
nance of the Sabbath had received the force of law. 

Lastly, for the same reason, after the destruction of the 
Hebrew dominion, revealed religion ceased to have the force 
of law; for we cannot doubt that as soon as the Jews 


transferred tlieir right to the king of Babylon, the king 
dom of God and the Divine right forthwith ceased. For 
the covenant wherewith they promised to obey all the 
utterances of God was abrogated ; God s kingdom, which 
was based thereupon, also ceased. The Hebrews could no 
longer abide thereby, inasmuch as their rights no longer 
belonged to them but to the king of Babylon, whom (as we 
showed in Chapter XVI.) they were bound to obey in all 
things. Jeremiah (chap. xxix. verse 7) expressly admo 
nishes them of this fact: "And seek the peace of the city, 
whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and 
pray unto the Lord for it ; for in the peace thereof shall 
ye have peace." Now, they could not seek the peace of the 
city as having a share in its government, but only as slaves, 
being, as they were, captives ; by obedience in all things, 
with a view to avoiding seditions, and by observing all the 
laws of the country, however different from their own. It 
is thus abundantly evident that religion among the 
Hebrews only acquired the form of law through the right 
of the sovereign rule; when that rule was destroyed, it could 
no longer be received as the law of a particular kingdom, 
but only as the universal precept of reason. I say of 
reason, for the universal religion had not yet become known 
by revelation. We may therefore draw the general conclu 
sion that religion, whether revealed through our natural 
faculties or through prophets, receives the force of a com 
mand solely through the decrees of the holders of sovereign 
power; and, further, that God has no special kingdom 
among men, except in so far as He reigns through earthly 

We may now see in a clearer light what was stated in 
Chapter IV., namely, that all the decrees of God involve 
eternal truth and necessity, so that we cannot conceive 
God as a prince or legislator giving laws to mankind. For 
this reason the Divine precepts, whether revealed through 
pur natural faculties, or through prophets, do not receive 
immediately from God the force of a command, but only 
from those, or through the mediation of those, who possess 
the right of ruling and legislating. It is only through 
these latter means that God rules among men, and directs 
human affairs with justice and equity. 


This conclusion is supported by experience, for we find 
traces of Divine justice only in places where just men bear 
sway ; elsewhere the same lot (to repeat again Solomon s 
words) befalls the just and the unjust, the pure and the 
impure : a state of things which causes Divine Providence 
to be doubted by many who think that God immediately 
reigns among men, and directs all nature for their 

As, then, both reason and experience tell us that the 
Divine right is entirely dependent on the decrees of secular 
rulers, it follows that secular rulers are its proper inter 
preters. How this is so we shall now see, for it is time to 
show that the outward observances of religion, and all the 
external practices of piety should be brought into accor 
dance with the public peace and well-being if we would 
obey God rightly. When this has been shown we shall 
easily understand how the sovereign rulers are the proper 
interpreters of religion and piety. 

It is certain that duties towards one s country are the 
highest that man can fulfil ; for, if government be taken 
away, no good thing can last, all falls into dispute, anger 
and anarchy reign unchecked amid universal fear. Conse 
quently there can be no d.uty towards our neighbour which 
would not become an offence if it involved injury to the 
whole state, nor can there be any offence against our duty 
towards our neighbour, or anything but loyalty in what we 
do for the sake of preserving the state. For instance: it 
is^in the abstract my duty when my neighbour quarrels 
with me and wishes to take my cloak, to give him my coat 
also ; but if it be thought that such conduct is hurtful to 
the maintenance of the state, I ought to bring him to trial 
even at the risk of his being condemned to death. 

For this reason Manlius Torquatus is held up to honour, 
inasmuch as the public welfare outweighed with him his 
duty towards his children. This being so, it follows that 
the public welfare is the sovereign law to which all others, 
Divine and human, should be made to conform. 

Now, it is the function of the sovereign only to decide 
what is necesssary for the public welfare and the safety of 
the state, and to give orders accordingly ; therefore it is also 
the function of the sovereign only to decide the limits of 


our duty towards our neighbour in otlicr words, to deter 
mine how we should obey God. We can now clearly under- 
stand how the sovereign is the interpreter of religion, and 
further, that no one can obey God rightly, if the practices 
of his piety do not conform to the public welfare ; or, con 
sequently, if he does not implicitly obey all the commands 
of the sovereign. For as by God s command we are bound 
to do our duty to all men without exception, and to do no 
man an injury, we are also bound not to help one man at 
another s loss, still less at a loss to the whole state. Now, 
110 private citizen can know what is good for the state, ex 
cept he learn it through the sovereign power, who alone 
has the right to transact public business : therefore no one 
can rightly practise piety or obedience to God, unless he 
obey the sovereign power s commands in all things. This 
proposition is confirmed by the facts of experience. For if 
the sovereign adjudge a man to be worthy of death or an 
enemy, whether he be a citizen or a foreigner, a private 
individual or a separate ruler, no subject is allowed to give 
him assistance. So also though the Jews were bidden to 
love their fellow-citizens as themselves (Levit. xix. 17, 18), 
they were nevertheless bound, if a man offended against 
the law, to point him out to the judge (Levit, v. 1, and 
Dcut. xiii. 8, 9), and, if he should be condemned to death, 
to slay him (Dent, xvii. 7). 

Further, in order that the Hebrews might preserve tho 
liberty they had gained, and might retain absolute sway 
over the territory they had conquered, it was necessary, as 
we showed in Chapter XVII., that their religion should be 
adapted to their particular government, and that they 
should separate themselves from the rest of the nations: 
wherefore it was commanded to them, " Love thy neigh 
bour and hate thine enemy" (Matt. v. 48), but after they 
had lost their dominion and had gone into captivity in 
Babylon, Jeremiah bid them take thought for the safety of 
the state into which they had been led captive ; and Christ 
when He saw that they would be spread over the whole 
world, told them to do their duty by all men without ex 
ception ; all of which instances show that religion has always 
been made to conform to the public welfare. Perhaps 
someone will ask: By what right, then, did the disciples 


of Christ, being private citizens, preach a now religion ? I 
answer that they did so by the right of the power which 
they had received from Christ against unclean spirits (see 
Matt. x. 1). I have already stated in Chapter XVI. that all 
are bound to obey a tyrant, unless they have received from 
God through undoubted revelation a promise of aid against 
him ; so let no one take example from the Apostles unless 
he too has the power of working miracles. The point is 
brought out more clearly by Christ s command to His 
disciples, "Fear not those who kill the body " (Matt. x. 28). 
If this command were imposed on everyone, governments 
would be founded in vain, and Solomon s words (Prov. xxiv. 
21), "My son, fear God and the king," would be impious, 
which they certainly are not ; we must therefore admit that 
the authority which Christ gave to His disciples was given 
to them only, and must not be taken as an example for 

I do not pause to consider the arguments of those who 
wish to separate secular rights from spiritual rights, 
placing the former under the control of the sovereign," 3 and 
the latter under the control of the universal Church ; such 
pretensions are too frivolous to merit refutation. I cannot, 
however, pass over in silence the fact that such persons are 
woefully deceived when they seek to support their seditious 
opinions (I ask pardon for the somewhat harsh epithet) by 
the example of the Jewish high priest, who, in ancient 
times, had the right of administering the sacred offices. 
Did not the high priests receive their right by the decree of 
Moses (who, as I have shown, retained the sole right to rule), 
and could they not by the same means be deprived of it ? 
Moses himself chose not only Aaron, but also his son 
Eleazar, and his grandson Phineas, and bestowed on them 
the right of administering the office of high priest. This 
right was retained by the high priests afterwards, but 
none the less were they delegates of Moses that is, of the 
sovereign power. Moses, as we have shown, left no successor 
to his dominion, but so distributed his prerogatives, that 
those who came after him seemed, as it were, regents who 
administer the government when a king is absent but not 

In the second commonwealth the high priests held their 


righi absolutely, after they had obtained the rights of prin 
cipality in addition. Wherefore the rights of the high 
priesthood always depended on the edict of the sovereign, 
and the high priests did not possess them till they became 
sovereigns also. Rights in matters spiritual always re 
mained under the control of the kings absolutely (as I will 
show at the end of this chapter), except in the single parti 
cular that they were not allowed to administer in person 
Ihe sacred duties in the Temple, inasmuch as they were not 
of the family of Aaron, and were therefore considered un 
clean, a reservation which would have no force in a Christian 

We cannot, therefore, doubt that the daily sacred rites 
(whose performance does not require a particular genealogy 
but only a special mode of life, and from which the holders 
of sovereign power are not excluded as unclean) are under 
the sole control of the sovereign power ; no one, save by 
the authority or concession of such sovereign, has the right 
or power of administering them, of choosing others to ad 
minister them, of defining or strengthening the foundations 
of the Church and her doctrines ; of judging on questions 
of morality or acts of piety ; of receiving anyone into the 
Church or excommunicating him therefrom, or, lastly, of 
providing for the poor. 

These doctrines are proved to be not only true (as wo 
have already pointed out), but also of primary necessity for 
the preservation of religion and the state. We all know 
what weight spiritual right and authority carries in the 
popular mind : how everyone hangs on the lips, as it were, 
of those who possess it. We may even say that those who 
wield such authority have the most complete sway over the 
popular mind. 

Whosoever, therefore, wishes to take this right away 
from the sovereign power, is desirous of dividing the do 
minion ; from such division, contentions, and strife will 
necessarily spring up, as they did of old between the Jewish 
kings and high priests, and will defy all attempts to allay 
them. Nay, further, lie who strives to deprive the sove 
reign power of such authority, is aiming (as we have said), 
at gaining dominion for himself. What is left for tho 
sovereign power to decide on, if this right be denied him ? 


Certainly nothing concerning either war or peace, if he has 
to ask another man s opinion as to whether what he believes 
to be beneficial would be pious or impious. Everything 
would depend on the verdict of him who had the right of 
deciding and judging what was pious or impious, right or 

When such a right was bestowed on the Pope of Rome 
absolutely, he gradually acquired complete control over the 
kings, till at last he himself mounted to the summits of 
dominion; however much monarchs, and especially the 
German emperors, strove to curtail his authority, were it 
only by a hair s-breadth, they effected nothing, but on the 
contrary by their very endeavours largely increased it. 
That which no monarch could accomplish with fire and 
sword, ecclesiastics could bring about with a stroke of the 
pen ; whereby we may easily see the force and power at the 
command of the Church, and also how necessary it is for 
sovereigns to reserve such prerogatives for themselves. 

If we reflect on what was said in the last chapter we shall 
see that such reservation conduced not a little to the in 
crease of religion and piety ; for we observed that the 
prophets themselves, though gifted with Divine efficacy, 
being merely private citizens, rather irritated than reformed 
the people by their freedom of warning, reproof, and denun 
ciation, whereas the kings by warnings and punishments 
easily bent men to their will. Furthermore, the kings them 
selves, not possessing the right in question absolutely, very 
often fell away from religion and took with them nearly the 
whole people. The same thing has often happened from 
the same cause in Christian states. 

Perhaps I shall be asked, " But if the holders of sove 
reign power choose to be wicked, who will be the rightful 
champion of piety ? Should the sovereigns still be its in 
terpreters?" I meet them with the counter-question, 
"But if ecclesiastics (who are also human, and private 
citizens, and who ought to mind only their own affairs), or 
if others whom it is proposed to entrust with spiritual 
authority, choose to be wicked, should they still be con 
sidered as piety s rightful interpreters ? " It is quite cer 
tain that when sovereigns wish to follow their own pleasure, 
whether they have control over spiritual matters or not, the 


whole state, spiritual and secular, will go to ruin, and it will 
go much faster if private citizens seditiously assume the 
championship of the Divine rights. 

Thus we see that not only is nothing gained by denying 
such rights to sovereigns, but on the contrary, great evil 
ensues. For (as happened with the Jewish kings who did 
not possess such rights absolutely) rulers are thus driven 
into wickedness, and the injury and loss to the state be 
come certain and inevitable, instead of uncertain and 
possible. Whether we look to the abstract truth, or the 
security of states, or the increase of piety, we are compelled 
to maintain that the Divine right, or the right of control 
over spiritual matters, depends absolutely on the decree of 
the sovereign, who is its legitimate interpreter and champion. 
Therefore the true ministers of God s word are those who 
teach piety to the people in obedience to the authority of 
the sovereign rulers by whose decree it has been brought 
into conformity with the public welfare. 

There remains for me to point out the cause for the 
frequent disputes on the subject of these spiritual rights in 
Christian states ; whereas the Hebrews, so far as I know, 
never had any doubts about the matter. It seems mon 
strous that a question so plain and so vitally important should 
thus have remained undecided, and that the secular rulers 
could never obtain the prerogative without controversy, 
nav, nor without great danger of sedition and injury to 
religion. If no cause for this state of things were forth- 
coming, I could easily persuade myself that all I have said 
in this chapter is mere theorizing, or a kind of speculative 
reasoning which can never be of any practical use. How 
ever when we reflect on the beginnings of Christianity the 
cause at once becomes manifest. The Christian religion 
was not taught at first by kings, but by private persons, 
who, against the wishes of those in power, whose subjects 
they were, were for a long time accustomed to hold meet 
ings in secret churches, to institute and perform sacred 
rites and on their own authority to settle and decide on 
their affairs without regard to the state, When, after the 
lapse of many years, the religion vras taken up by 
authorities, the ecclesiastics were obliged to teach it to the 
emperors themselves as they had defined it: wherefore 


they easily gained recognition as its teachers and inter 
preters, and the church pastors were looked upon as vicars 
of God. The ecclesiastics took good care that the Christian 
kings should not assume their authority, by prohibiting 
marriage to the chief ministers of religion and to its 
highest interpreter. They furthermore effected their pur 
pose by multiplying the dogmas of religion to such an 
extent and so blending them with philosophy that their 
chief interpreter was bound to be a skilled philosopher and 
theologian, and to have leisure for a host of idle specula 
tions : conditions which could only be fulfilled by a private 
individual with much time on his hands. 

Among the Hebrews things were very differently ar 
ranged : for their Church began at the same time as their 
dominion, and Moses, their absolute ruler, taught religion 
to^the people, arranged their sacred rites, and chose their 
spiritual ministers. Thus the royal authority carried very 
great weight with the people, and the kings kept a firm 
hold on their spiritual prerogatives. 

Although, after the death of Moses, no one held absolute 
sway, yet the power of deciding both in matters spiritual and 
matters temporal was in the hands of the secular chief, as I 
have already pointed out. Further, in order that it might 
be taught religion and piety, the people was bound to con 
sult the supreme judge no less than the high priest (Deut. 
xvii. 9, 11). Lastly, though the kings had not as much 
power as Moses, nearly the whole arrangement and choice 
of the sacred ministry depended on their decision. Thus 
David arranged the whole service of the Temple (see 
1 Chron. xxviii. 11, 12, &c.) ; from all the Levites he chose 
twenty-four thousand for the sacred psalms; six thou 
sand of these formed the body from which were chosen the 
judges and praetors, four thousand were porters, and four 
thousand to play on instruments (see 1 Chron. xxiii. 4, 5). 
He further divided them into companies (of whom he chose 
the chiefs), so that each in rotation, at the allotted time, 
might perform the sacred rites. The priests he also divided 
into as many companies ; I will not go through the whole 
catalogue, but refer the reader to 2 Chron. viii. 13, where 
it is stated, " Then Solomon offered burnt offerings to the 
Lord . 4 6 . after a certain rate every day, offering accord- 


ing to the commandments of Moses ; " and in verse 14, " And 
he appointed, according to the order of David his father, 
the courses of the priests to their service .... for so had 
David the man of God commanded." Lastly, the historian 
bears witness in verse 15: "And they departed not from 
the commandment of the king unto the priests and Levitcs 
concerning any matter, or concerning the treasuries." 

From these and other histories of the kings it is abun 
dantly evident, that the whole practice of religion and the 
sacred ministry depended entirely on the commands of the 

When I said above that the kings had not the same right 
as Moses to elect the high priest, to consult God without 
intermediaries, and to condemn the prophets who pro 
phesied during their reign ; I said so simply because the 
prophets could, in virtue of their mission, choose a new 
king and give absolution for regicide, not because they 
could call a king who offended against the law to judgment, 
or could rightly act against him. 1 

Wherefore if there had been no prophets who, in virtue 
of a special revelation, could give absolution for regicide, tl:e 
kings would have possessed absolute rights over all matters 
both spiritual and temporal. Consequently the rulers of 
modern times, who have no pro] hets and would not 
rightly be bound in any case to receive them (for they are 
not subject to Jewish law), have absolute possession of the 
spiritual prerogative, although they are not celibates, an I 
they will always retain it, if they will refuse to allow re 
ligious dogmas to be unduly multiplied or confounded 
with philosophy. 

See Note 33. 





TF men s minds were as easily controlled as their tongues- 
L every king would sit safely on his throne, and govern- 
ment by compulsion would cease ; for every subject would 
shape his life according to the intentions of his rulers and 
would esteem a thing true or false, good or evil, -just or 
unjust, m obedience to their dictates. However, we have 
shown already (Chapter XVII.) that no man s mind can pos 
sibly he wholly at the disposition of another, for no one can 
willingly transfer his natural right of free reason and iudg- 
ment, or be compelled so to do. For this reason govern- 
ment which attempts to control minds is accounted tyran 
nical, and it is considered an abuse of sovereignty and a 
usurpation of the rights of subjects, to seek to prescribe 
what shall be accepted as true, or rejected as false, or what 
opinions should actuate men in their worship of God All 
these questions fall within a man s natural right, which he 
cannot abdicate even with his own consent. 

I admit that the judgment can be biassed in many ways 
and to an almost incredible degree, so that while exempt 
from direct external control it may be so dependent on 
another man s words, that it may fitly be said to be ruled 
by him ; but although this influence is carried to great 
lengths it has never gone so far as to invalidate the state 
ment, that every man s understanding is his own, and that 
brains are as diverse as palates. 

Moses, not by fraud, but by Divine virtue, gained such a 
hold over the popular judgment that he was accounted 
superhuman, and believed to speak and act through the in 
spiration of the Deity; nevertheless, even he could HOD 
escape murmurs and evil interpretations. How much less 
then can other monarchs avoid them ! Yet such unlimited 
power, if it exists at all, must belong to a monarch, and 


least of all to a democracy, where the whole or a great part 
of the people wield authority collectively. This is a fact 
which I think everyone can explain for himself. 

However unlimited, therefore, the power of a sovereign 
may be, however implicitly it is trusted as the exponent of 
law and religion, it -can never prevent men from forming 
judgments according to their intellect, or being influenced 
by any given emotion. It is true that it has the right to 
treat as enemies all men whose opinions do not, on all sub 
jects, entirely coincide with its own ; but we are not dis 
cussing its strict rights, but its proper course of action. 
I grant that it has the right to rule in the most violent 
manner, and to put citizens to death for very trivial causes, 
but no one supposes it can do this with the approval of 
sound judgment. Nay, inasmuch as such things cannot be 
done without extreme peril to itself, we may even deny 
that it has the absolute power to do them, or, consequently, 
the absolute right ; for the rights of the sovereign are 
limited by his power. 

Since, therefore, no one can abdicate his freedom of judg 
ment and feeling ; since every man is by indefeasible natu 
ral right the master of his own thoughts, it follows that 
men thinking in diverse and contradictory fashions, cannot, 
without disastrous results, be compelled to speak only 
according to the dictates of the supreme power. Not even 
the most experienced, to say nothing of the multitude, know 
how to keep silence. Men s common failing is to confide 
their plans to others, though there be need for secrecy, so 
that a government would be most harsh which, deprived 
the individual of his freedom of saying and teaching what 
he thought ; and would be moderate if such freedom were 
granted. Still we cannot deny that authority may be as 
much injured by words as by actions ; hence, although the 
freedom we are discussing cannot be entirely denied to sub 
jects, its unlimited concession would be most baneful ; we 
must, therefore, now inquire, how far such freedom can and 
ought to be conceded without danger io the peace of the 
Ktate, or the power of the rulers ; and this, ;is I said at the 
beginning of Chapter XVI., is iny principal object. 

It follows, plainly, from the explanation given above, of 
the foundations of a state, that tlio ultimate aim of govern- 


meiit is not to rule, or restrain, by fear, nor to exact obe 
dience, but contrariwise, to free every man from fear, that 
lie may live in all possible security ; in other words, to 
strengthen his natural right to exist and work without 
injury to himself or others. 

No, the object of government is not to change men from 
rational beings into beasts or puppets, but to enable them 
to develope their minds and bodies in security, and to 
employ their reason unshackled ; neither showing hatred, 
anger, or deceit, nor watched with the eyes of jealousy and 
injustice. In fact, the true aim of government is liberty. 

Now we have seen that in forming a state the power of 
making laws must either be vested in the body of the 
citizens, or in a portion of them, or in one man. For, 
although men s free judgments are very diverse, each one 
thinking. that he alone knows everything, and although 
complete unanimity of feeling and speech is out of the 
question, it is impossible to preserve peace, unless in 
dividuals abdicate their right of acting entirely on their 
own judgment. Therefore, the individual justly cedes the 
right of free action, though not of free reason and judg 
ment ; no one can act against the authorities without dan 
ger to the state, though his feelings and judgment may be 
at variance therewith ; he may even speak against them, pro 
vided that he does so from rational conviction, not from 
fraud, anger, or hatred, and provided that he does not 
attempt to introduce any change on his private authority. 

For instance, supposing a man shows that a Jaw is re 
pugnant to sound reason, and should therefore be repealed ; 
if he submits his opinion to the judgment of the authorities 
(who, alone, have the right of making and repealing laws), 
and meanwhile acts in nowise contrary to that law, he has 
deserved well of the state, and has behaved as a good citizen 
should ; but if he accuses the authorities of injustice, and 
stirs up the people against them, or if he seditiously strives 
to abrogate the law without their consent, he is a mere 
agitator and rebel. 

Thus we see how an individual may declare and teach 
what he believes, without injury to the authority of his 
.rulers, or to the public peace ; namely, by leaving in their 
hands the entire power of legislation as it affects action, 


and by doing nothing against their laws, though he be com 
pelled often to act in contradiction to what he believes, and 
openly feels, to be best. 

Such a course can be taken without detriment to justice 
and dutifulness, nay, it is the one which a just and dutiful 
man would adopt. We have shown that justice is depen 
dent on the laws of the authorities, so that no one who 
contravenes their accepted decrees can be just, while the 
highest regard for duty, as we have pointed out in the pre 
ceding chapter, is exercised in maintaining public peace 
and tranquillity ; these could not be preserved if every man 
were to live as he pleased ; therefore it is no less than undu- 
tiful for a man to act contrary to his country s laws, for if 
the practice became universal the ruin of states would 
necessarily follow. 

Hence, so long as a man acts in obedience to the laws of 
his rulers, he in nowise contravenes his reason, for in obe 
dience to reason he transferred the right of controlling his 
actions from his own hands to theirs. This doctrine we 
can confirm from actual custom, for in a conference of great 
and small powers, schemes are seldom carried unanimously, 
yet all unite in carrying out what is decided on, whether they 
voted for or against. But I return to my proposition. 

From the fundamental notions of a state, we have dis 
covered how a man may exercise free judgment without 
detriment to the supreme power : from the same premises 
we can no less easily determine what opinions would be 
seditious. Evidently those which by their very nature 
nullify the compact by which the right of free action was 
ceded. For instance, a man who holds that the supreme 
power has no rights over him, or that promises ought not to 
be kept, or that everyone should live as he pleases, or 
other doctrines of this nature in direct opposition to the 
above-mentioned contract, is seditious, not so much from 
liis actual opinions and judgment, as from the deeds which 
they involve ; for he who maintains such theories abrogates 
the contract which tacitly, or openly, he made with his 
rulers. Other opinions which do not involve acts violating 
the contract, such as revenge, anger, and the like, are not 
seditious, unless it be in some corrupt state, where super 
stitious and ambitious persons, unable to endure men of 


learning, are so popular with the multitude that their word 
is more valued than the law. 

However, I do not deny that there are some doctrines 
which, while they are apparently only concerned with ab 
stract truths and falsehoods, are yet propounded and pub 
lished with unworthy motives. This question we have 
discussed in Chapter XV., and shown that reason should 
nevertheless remain unshackled. If we hold to the prin 
ciple that a man s loyalty to the state should be judged, 
like his loyalty to God, from his actions only namely, 
from his charity towards his neighbours ; we cannot doubt 
that the best government will allow freedom of philosophi 
cal speculation no less than of religious belief. I confess 
that from such freedom inconveniences may sometimes 
arise, but what question was ever settled so wisely that no 
abuses could possibly spring therefrom ? He who seeks to 
regulate everything by law, is more likely to arouse vices 
than to reform them. It is best to grant what cannot be 
abolished, even though it be in itself harmful. How many 
evils spring from luxury, envy, avarice, drunkenness, and 
the like, yet these are tolerated vices as they are because 
they cannot be prevented by legal enactments. How much 
more then should free thought be granted, seeing that it is in 
itself a virtue and that it cannot be crushed ! Besides, the evil 
results can easily be checked, as I will show, by the secular 
authorities, not to mention that such freedom is absolutely 
necessary for progress in science and the liberal arts : for 
no man follows such pursuits to advantage unless his judg 
ment be entirely free and unhampered. 

But let it be granted that freedom may be crushed, and 
men be so bound down, that they do not dare to utter a 
whisper, save at the bidding of their rulers ; nevertheless 
this can never be carried to the pitch of making them think 
according to authority, so that the necessary consequences 
would be that men would daily be thinking one thing and 
saying another, to the corruption of good faith, that main 
stay of government, and to the fostering of hateful flattery 
and perfidy, whence spring stratagems, and the corruption 
of every good art. 

It is far from possible to impose uniformity of speech, 
for the more rulers strive to curtail freedom of speech, the 


more obstinately are they resisted; not indeed by the 
avaricious, the flatterers, and other numskulls, who think 
supreme salvation consists in filling their stomachs and gloat 
ing over their money-bags, but by those whom good educa 
tion, sound morality, and virtue have rendered more free. 
Men, as generally constituted, are most prone to resent the 
branding as criminal of opinions which they believe to be 
true, and the proscription as wicked of that which inspires 
them with piety towards God and man; hence they are 
ready to forswear the laws and conspire against the autho 
rities, thinking it not shameful but honourable to stir up 
seditions and perpetuate any sort of crime with this end in 
view. Such being the constitution of human nature, we see 
that laws directed against opinions affect the generous- 
minded rather than the wicked, and are adapted less for 
coercing criminals than for irritating the upright ; so that 
they cannot be maintained without great peril to the state. 

Moreover, such laws are almost always useless, for those 
who hold that the opinions proscribed are sound, cannot 
possibly obey the law ; whereas those who already reject 
them as false, accept the law as a kind of privilege, and 
make such boast of it, that authority is powerless to repeal 
it, even if such a course be subsequently desired. 

To these considerations may be added what we said in 
Chapter XVIII. in treating of the history of the Hebrews. 
And, lastly, how many schisms have arisen in the Church 
from the attempt of the authorities to decide by law the 
intricacies of theological controversy ! If men were not 
allured by the hope of getting the law and the authorities on 
their side, of triumphing over their adversaries in the sight 
of an applauding multitude, and of acquiring honourable 
distinctions, they would not strive so maliciously, nor would 
such fury sway their minds. This is taught not only by 
reason but by daily examples, for laws of this kind pre 
scribing what every man shall believe and forbidding any 
one to speak or write to the contrary, have often been 
passed, as sops or concessions to the anger of those who 
cannot tolerate men of enlightenment, and who, by such 
liarsh and crooked enactments, can easily turn the devotion 
of the masses into fury and direct it against whom they 


How much "better would it be to restrain popular anger 
and fury, instead of passing useless laws, which can only be 
broken by those who love virtue and the liberal arts, thus 
paring down the state till it is too small to harbour men of 
talent. What greater misfortune for a state can be con 
ceived than that honourable men should be sent like 
criminals into exile, because they hold diverse opinions 
which they cannot disguise? What, I say, can be more 
hurtful than that men who have committed 110 crime or 
wickedness should, simply because they are enlightened, 
be treated as enemies and put to death, and that the ! 
scaffold, the terror of evil-doers, should become the arena 
where the highest examples of tolerance and virtue are dis 
played to the people with all the marks of ignominy that 
authority can devise ? 

He that knows himself to be upright does not fear the 
death of a criminal, and shrinks from no punishment ; his 
mind is not wrung with remorse for any disgraceful deed : 
he holds that death in a good cause is no punishment, but 
an honour, and that death for freedom is glory. 

What purpose then is served by the death of such men, 
what example is proclaimed ? the cause for which they die 
is unknown to the idle and the foolish, hateful to the tur 
bulent, loved by the upright. The only lesson we can 
draw from such scenes is to natter the persecutor, or else 
to imitate the victim. 

If formal assent is not to be esteemed above conviction, 
2ind if governments are to retain a firm hold of authority 
and not be compelled to yield to agitators, it is imperative 
that freedom of judgment should be granted, so that men 
may live together in harmony, however diverse, or even 
openly contradictory their opinions may be. We cannot 
doubt that such is the best system of government and open 
to the fewest objections, since it is the one most in harmony 
with human nature. In a democracy (the most natural 
form of government, as we have shown in Chapter XVI.) 
everyone submits to the control of authority over his 
actions, but not over his judgment and reason; that is, 
seeing that all cannot think alike, the voice of the majority 
has the force of law, subject to repeal if circumstances 
bring about a change of opinion. In proportion as the 


power of free judgment is withheld we depart from the 
natural condition of mankind, and consequently the govern 
ment becomes more tyrannical. 

In order to prove that from such freedom no incon 
venience arises, which cannot easily be checked by the exer 
cise of the sovereign power, and that men s actions can 
easily be kept in bounds, though their opinions be at open 
variance, it will be well to cite an example. Such an one 
is not very far to seek. The city of Amsterdam reaps the 
fruit of this freedom in its own great prosperity and in the 
admiration of all other people. For in this most flourishing 
state, and most splendid city, men of every nation and 
religion live together in the greatest harmony, and ask no 
questions before trusting their goods to a fellow-citizen, 
save whether he be rich or poor, and whether he generally 
acts honestly, or the reverse. His religion and sect is con 
sidered of no importance : for it has no effect before the 
judges in gaining or losing a cause, and there is no sect so 
despised that its followers, provided that they harm no one, 
pay every man his due, and live uprightly, are deprived of 
the protection of the magisterial authority. 

On the other hand, when the religious controversy be 
tween Remonstrants and Counter-Remonstrants began to 
be taken up by politicians and the States, it grew into a 
schism, and abundantly showed that laws dealing with 
religion and seeking to settle its controversies are much 
more calculated to irritate than to reform, and that they 
give rise to extreme licence : further, it was seen that 
schisms do not originate in a love of truth, which is a source 
of courtesy and gentleness, but rather in an inordinate 
desire for supremacy, From all these considerations it is 
clearer than the sun at noonday, that the true schismatics 
are those who condemn other men s writings, and sedi 
tiously stir up the quarrelsome masses against their authors, 
rather than those authors themselves, who generally write 
only for the learned, and appeal solely to reason. In fact, 
the real disturbers of the peace are those who, in a free 
state, seek to curtail the liberty of judgment which they 
are unable to tyrannize over. 

I have thus shown : I. That it is impossible to deprive 
men of the liberty of saying what they think. II. That 


such liberty can be conceded to every man without injury 
to the rights and authority of the sovereign power, and 
that every man may retain it without injury to such rights, 
provided that he does not presume upon it to the extent 
of introducing any new rights into the state, or acting in 
any way contrary to the existing laws. III. That every 
man may enjoy this liberty without detriment to the public 
peace, and that no inconveniences arise therefrom which 
cannot easily be checked. IV. That every man may enjoy 
it without injury to his allegiance. Y. That laws dealing 
with speculative problems are entirely useless. VI. Lastly, 
that not only may such liberty be granted without preju 
dice to the public peace, to loyalty, and to the rights of 
rulers, but that it is even necessary for their preservation. 
For when people try to take it away, and bring to trial, 
not only the acts which alone are capable of offending, but 
also the opinions of mankind, they only succeed in sur 
rounding their victims with an appearance of martyrdom, 
and raise feelings of pity and revenge rather than of terror. 
Uprightness and good faith are thus corrupted, flatterers 
and traitors are encouraged, and sectarians triumph, inas 
much as concessions have been made to their animosity, 
and they have gained the state sanction for the doctrines of 
which they are the interpreters. Hence they arrogate to 
themselves the state authority and rights, and do not scruple 
to assert that they have been directly chosen by God, and 
that their laws are Divine, whereas the laws of the state are 
human, and should therefore yield obedience to the laws of 
God in other words, to their own laws. Everyone must 
see that this is not a state of affairs conducive to public 
welfare. Wherefore, as we have shown in Chapter XYTTT,, 
the safest way for a state is to lay down the rule that reli 
gion is comprised solely in the exercise of charity and jus 
tice, and that the rights of rulers in sacred, no less than in 
secular matters, should merely have to do with actions, but 
that every man should think what he likes and say what he 

I have thus fulfilled the task I set myself in this treatise. 
It remains only to call attention to the fact that I have 
written nothing which I do not. most willingly submit to 
the examination and approval of my country s rulers ; and 


that I am willing to retract anything which they shall de 
cide to be repugnant to the laws, or prejudicial to the public 
good. I know that I am a man, and as a man liable to 
error, but against error I have taken scrupulous care, and 
have striven to keep in entire accordance with the laws of 
my country, with loyalty, and with morality. 




Nofe 1 (p. 13). The word nali is rightly interpreted by Rabbi 
Salomon Jarchi, but the sense is hardly caught by Aben Ezra, 
who was not so good a Hebraist. We must also remark that this 
Hebrew word for prophecy has a universal meaning and em 
braces all kinds of prophecy. Other terms are more special, and 
denote this or that sort of prophecy, as I believe is well known 
to the learned. 

Note 2 (p. 14). "Although ordinary knowledge is Divine, its 
professors cannot le called prophets." That is, interpreters of 
God. For he alone is an interpreter of God, who interprets the 
decrees which God has revealed to him, to others who have not re 
ceived such revelation, and whose belief, therefore, rests merely 
on the prophet s authority and the confidence reposed in him. If 
it were otherwise, and all who listen to prophets became prophets 
themselves, as all who listen to philosophers become philo 
sophers, a prophet would no longer be the interpreter of Divine 
decrees, inasmuch as his hearers would know the truth, not on the 
authority of the prophet, but by means of actual Divine revela 
tion and inward testimony. Thus the sovereign powers are the 
interpreters of their own rights of sway, because these are de 
fended only by their authority and supported by their testimony. 

Note 3 ( p. 24). " Prophets were endowed with a peculiar a/, d ex 
traordinary power. 1 " Though some men en joy gifts which nature 
has not bestowed on their fellows, they are not said to surpass the 
bounds of human nature, unless their special qualities are such as 
cannot be said to be deducible from the definition of human 
nature. For instance, a giant is a rarity, but still human. The 
gift of composing poetry extempore is given to very few, yet it is 
human. The same may, therefore, be said of the faculty pos 
sessed by some of imagining things as vividly as though they 
saw them before them, and this not while asleep, but while 


awake. But if anyone could be found who possessed other 
means and other foundations for knowledge, he might be said 
to transcend the limits of human nature. 


Note 4 (p. 47). In Gen. xv. it is written that God promised Abra 
ham to protect him, and to grant him ample rewards. Abraham 
answered that he could expect nothing which could be of any 
value to him, as he was childless and well stricken in years. 

Note 5 (p. 47). That a keeping of the commandments of the 
Old Testament is not sufficient for eternal life, appears from 
Mark x. 21. 


Note 6 (;). 84). We doubt of the existence of God, and conse 
quently of all else, so long as we have no clear and distinct idea of 
God, but only a confused one. For as he who knows not rightly 
the nature of a triangle, knows not that its three angles are equal 
to two right angles, so he who conceives the Divine nature con 
fusedly, does not see that it pertains to the nature of God to 
exist. Now, to conceive the nature of God clearly and distinctly, 
it is necessary to pay attention to a certain number of very simple 
notions, called general notions, and by their help to associate the 
conceptions which we form of the attributes of the Divine nature. 
It then, for the first time, becomes clear to us, that God exists 
necessarily, that He is omnipresent, and that all our conceptions 
involve in themselves the nature of God and are conceived 
through it. Lastly, we see that all our adequate ideas are true. 
Compare on this point the prolegomena to my book, "Pr/n- 
ciples of Descartes 8 philosophy set forth geometrically" 


Note 7 (p. 108). " It is impossible to find a method which would 
enable i(S to gain a ceiiain knowledge of all the statements in Scrip 
ture." I mean impossible for us who have not the habitual use of 
the language, and have lost the precise meaning of its phraseology. 

Note S(p. 112). "Not in things whereof tlie understanding can gain 
a clear and distinct idea, and which are conceivable through tJiem- 
eelves." By things conceivable I mean not only those which are 
rigidly proved, but also those whereof we are morally certain, 
and are wont to hear without wonder, though they are incapable 
of proof. Everyone can see the truth of Euclid s propositions 
before they are proved. So also the histories of things both 
future and past which do uot surpass human credence, laws, 

NOTES. 271 

institutions, manners, I call conceivable and clear, though they 
cannot be proved mathematically. But hieroglyphics and his 
tories which seem to pass the bounds of belief I call inconceiv 
able; yet even among these last there are many which our 
method enables us to investigate, and to discover the meaning of 
their narrator. 


Note 9 (p. 122). "Mount Moriah is called the mount of God." 
That is by the historian, not by Abraham, for he says that the 
place now called "In the mount of the Lord it shall be re 
vealed," was called by Abraham, " the Lord shall provide." 

Note 10 (p. 124). "Before that territory [IdumcBa] was con 
quered by David." From this time to the reign of Jehoram 
when they again separated from the Jewish kingdom (2 Kings 
viii. 20), the Idumaeans had no king, princes appointed by the 
Jews supplied the place of kings (1 Kings xxii. 48), in fact the 
prince of Idumaeais called a king (2 Kings iii. 9). 

It may be doubted whether the last of the Idumsean kings 
had begun to reign before the accession of Saul, or whether 
Scripture in this chapter of Genesis wished to enumerate only 
sucli kings as were independent. It is evidently mere trifling to 
wish to enrol among Hebrew kings the name of Moses, who set 
up a dominion entirely different from a monarchy. 


Note 11 (p. 133). " Withfeiv exceptions" One of these exceptions 
is found in 2 Kings xviii. 20, where we read, " Thou sayest (but 
they are but vain words)," the second person being used. In 
Isaiah xxxvi. 5, we read " I say (but they are but vain words) I 
have counsel and strength for war," and in the twenty-second 
verse of the chapter in Kings it is written, "But if ye say," the 
plural number being used, whereas Isaiah gives the singular. 
The text in Isaiah does not contain the words found in 2 Kings 
xxxii. 32. Thus there are several cases of various readings where 
it is impossible to distinguish the best. 

Note 12 (p. 134). " The expressions in the tivo passages are so 
varied" For instance we read in 2 Sam. vii. 6, " But I have 
walked in a tent and in a tabernacle." Whereas in 1 Chron. 
xvii. 5, "but have gone from tent to tent and from one tabernacle 
to another." In 2 Sam. vii. 10, we read, "to afflict them," 
whereas in 1 Chron. vii. 9, we find a different expression. I could 
point out other differences still greater, but a single reading of 
tho chapters in question will sufiice to make them manifest 
to all win are neither blind nor devoid of sense. 


Note 13 (p. 134). u This time cannot refer to icliat immediately 
precedes. " It is plain from the context that this passage must 
allude to the time when Joseph was sold by his brethren. But 
this is not all. We ma} r draw the same conclusion from the age 
of Judah, who was then twenty-two years old at most, taking as 
basis of calculation his own history just narrated. It follows, 
indeed, from the last verse of Gen. xxx., that Judah was born in 
the tenth of the years of Jacob s servitude to Laban, and Joseph 
in the fourteenth. Now, as we know that Joseph was seventeen 
years old when sold by his brethren, Judah was thennot more than 
twenty-one. Hence, those writers who assert that Judah s long 
absence from his father s house took place before Joseph was 
sold, only seek to delude themselves and to call in question the 
Scriptural authority which they are anxious to protect. 

Note 14 (p. 135). " Dinah was scarcely seven years old when she 
was violated by Schechem." The opinion held by some that Jacob 
wandered about for eight or ten years between Mesopotamia and 
Bethel, savours of the ridiculous; if respect for Aben Ezra 
allows me to say so. For it is clear that Jacob had two reasons 
for haste : first, the desire to see his old parents ; secondly, 
and chiefly to perform, the vow made when he fled from his 
brother (Gen. xxviii. 10 and xxxi. 13, and xxxv. 1). We read 
(Gen. xxxi. 3), that God had commanded him to fulfil his vow, 
and promised him help for returning to his countiy. If these 
considerations seem conjectures rather than reasons, I will waive 
the point and admit that Jacob, more unfortunate than Ulysses, 
spent eight or ten years or even longer, in this short journc} . 
At any rate it cannot bo denied that Benjamin was born in the 
last 3 r ear of this wandering, that is by the reckoning of the ob 
jectors, when Joseph was sixteen or seventeen years old, for 
Jacob left Laban seven years after Joseph s birth. Now from 
the seventeenth year of Joseph s age till the patriarch went into 
Egypt, not more than twenty-two years elapsed, as we have 
shown in this chapter. Consequently Benjamin, at the time of 
the journey to Egypt, was twenty-three or twenty-four at the 
most. Ho would therefore have been a grandfather in the 
flower of his age (Gen. xlvi. 21, cf. Numb. xxvi. 38, 40, and 
1 Chron. viii. 1), for it is certain that Bela, Benjamin s eldest 
son, had at that time, two sons, Addai and Naaman. This is 
just as absurd as the statement that Dinah was violated at the 
age of seven, not to mention other impossibilities which would 
result from the truth of the narrative. Thus we see that unskil 
ful endeavours to solve difficulties, only raise fresh ones, and 
make confusion worse confounded. 

Note 10(p. 13G). " Othniel,sonoj Kcnag, ivasjudgr for forty years." 
Rabbi Levi Ben Gerson and others believe that these forty years 
which the Bible says were passed in freedom, should be counted 

NOTES. 273 

from the death of Joshua, and consequently include the eight 
years during which the people were subject to Kushan Risha- 
thaim, while the following eighteen years must be added on to 
the eighty years of Ehud s and Shamgar s judgeships. In this 
case it would be necessary to reckon the other years of subjection 
among those said by the Bible to have been passed in freedom. 
But the Bible expressly notes the number of years of subjection, 
and the number of years of freedom, and further declares 
(Judges ii. 18) that the Hebrew state was prosperous during the 
whole time of the judges. Therefore it is evident that Levi^Ben 
Gerson (certainly a very learned man), and those who follow 
him, correct rather than interpret the Scriptures. 

The same fault is committed by those who assert, that Scrip 
ture, by this general calculation of years, only intended to mark 
the period of the regular administration of the Hebrew state, 
leaving out the years of anarchy and subjection as periods of 
misfortune and interregnum. Scripture certainly passes over in 
silence periods of anarchy, but does not, as they dream, refuse 
to reckon them or wipe them out of the country s annals. It is 
clear that Ezra, in 1 Kings vi., wished to reckon absolutely all 
the years since the flight from Egypt. This is so plain, that no 
one versed in the Scriptures can doubt it. For, without going 
back to the precise words of the text, we may see that the 
genealogy of David given at the end of the book of Ruth, and 
1 Chron. ii., scarcely accounts for so great a number of years. 
For Nahshon, who was prince of the tribe of Judah (Numb. vii. 
11), two years after the Exodus, died in the desert, and his son 
Salmon passed the Jordan with Joshua. Now this Salmon, ac 
cording to the genealogy, was David s great-grandfather. De 
ducting, then, from the total of 480 years, four years for Solomon s 
reign, seventy for David s life, and forty for the time passed in 
the desert, we find that David was born 366 years after the pas 
sage of the Jordan. Hence we must believe that David s father, 
grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather be 
gat children when they were ninety years old. 

Note 16 (p. 137). " Samson was judge for twenty years. 
Samson was born after the Hebrews had fallen under the 
dominion of the Philistines. 

Note 17 (p. 139). Otherwise, they rather correct than explain 

Note 18 (p. 140). "Kirjafh-jearim." Kirjath-jearim is also called 
Baale of Judah. Hence Kimchi and others think that the words 
Baale Judah, which I have translated " the people of Judah " 
are the name of a town. But this is not so, for the word Baale 
is in the plural. Moreover, comparing this text in Samuel with 
1 Ghron. xm. 5, we find that David did not rise up and go forth 
out of Baale, but that he went thither. If the author of the book 


of Samuel had meant to name the place whence David took th 
ark, he would, if he spoke Hebrew correctly, have said, "David 
rose up, and set forth from Baale Judah, and took the ark from 


Note 19 (p. 146). " After the restoration of the Temple ly Judas 
Maccabeus." This conjecture, if such it be, is founded on 
the genealogy of King Jeconiah, given in 1 Chron. iii., which 
finishes at the sons of Elioenai, the thirteenth in direct descent 
from him: whereon we must observe that Jeconiah, before his 
captivity, had no children ; but it is probable that he had two 
while he was in prison, if we may draw any inference from 
the names he gave them. As to his grandchildren, it is evident 
that they were born after his deliverance, if the names be any 
guide, for his grandson, Pedaiah (a name meaning God hath 
delivered me), who, according to this chapter, was the father of 
Zerubbabel, was born in the thirty-seventh or thirty-eighth year 
of Jeconiah s life, that is thirty-three years before the restoration 
of liberty to the Jews by Cyrus. Therefore Zerubbabel, to whom 
Cyrus gave the principality of Judaea, was thirteen or fourteen 
years old. But we need not carry the inquiry so far : we need 
only read attentively the chapter of 1 Chron., already quoted, 
where (v. 17, sqq.) mention is made of all the posterity of Jeco 
niah, and compare it with the Septuagint version to see clearly 
that these books were not published, till after Maccabams had 
restored the Temple, the sceptre no longer belonging to the house 
of Jeconiah. 

Note 20 (p. 148). " Zedekiah should le taken to Babylon. 
No one could then have suspected that the prophecy of Ezekiel 
contradicted that of Jeremiah, but the suspicion occurs to every 
one who reads the narrative of Josephus. The event proved 
that both prophets were in the right. 

Note 21 (p. 150). "And wlio vsrote NchemidJt" That the 
greater part of the book of Nehcmiah was taken from the work 
composed by the prophet Nehemiah himself, follows from the 
testimony of its author. (See chap. i.). But it is obvious that 
the whole of the passage contained between chap. viii. and 
chap. xii. verse 26, together with the two last verses of chap, 
xii., which form a sort of parenthesis to Nehemiah s words, 
were added by the historian himself, who outlived Nehemiah. 

Note 22 (p. 151). "I suppose no one thinks " that E/ra was the 
nnclo of the first high priest, named Joshua (see Ezra vii., and 
1 Chron. vi. 14), and went to Jerusalem from Babylon with 
Zerubbabel (see Nehemiah xii. 1). But it appears that when 
lie saw, that the Jews were in a state of anarchy, he returned 
to Babylon, as also did others (Nehern. i. 2), and remained 

NOTES. 275 

there till the reign of Artaxerxes, when his requests were 
granted and he went a second time to Jerusalem. Nehemiah 
also went to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel in the time of Cyrus 
(Ezra ii. 2 and G3, cf. x. 9, and Nehemiah x. 1). The version 
given of the Hebrew word, translated "ambassador," is not 
supported by any authority, while it is certain that fresh names 
were given to those Jews who frequented the court. Tims 
Daniel was named Balteshazzar, and Zerubbabel Sheshbazzar 
(Dan. i. 7). Nehemiah was called Atirsata, while in virtue of 
his office he was styled governor, or president. (Nehem. v. 24 
xii. 2G.) 

Note 23 (p. 155). " Before the time of the Maccabees there was no 
canon of sacred books" The synagogue styled "the great" did 
not begin before the subjugation of Asia by the Macedonians. 
The contention of Maimonides, Babbi Abraham, Ben-David, and 
others, that the presidents of this synagogue were Ezra, Daniel, 
Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, &c., is a pure fiction, resting 
only on rabbinical tradition. Indeed they assert that the 
dominion of the Persians only lasted thirty-four years, and this 
is their chief reason for maintaining that the decrees of the 
" great synagogue," or synod (rejected by the Sadducees, but 
accepted by the Pharisees) were ratified by the prophets, who 
received them from former prophets, and so in direct succession 
from Moses, who received them from God Himself. Such is the 
doctrine which the Pharisees^ maintain with their wonted 
obstinacy. Enlightened persons^however, who know the reasons 
for the convoking of councils, or synods, and are no strangers to 
the differences between Pharisees and Sadducees, can easily divine 
the causes which led to the assembling of this great synagogue. 
It is very certain that no prophet was there present, and that 
the decrees of the Pharisees, which they stylo their traditions, 
derive all their authority from it. 


Note 24 (p. 157). "Now I tJiinJc." The translators render the 
word \oyio[iai here by I infer, and assert that Paul uses it as 
synonymous with av\\oji ^ofiai. But the former word has, in 
Greek, the same meaning as the Hebrew word rendered to 
think, to esteem, to judge. And this signification would be in 
entire agreement with the Syriac translation. This Syriac 
translation (if it be a translation, which is very doubtful, for 
we know neither the time of its appearance, nor the translator, 
and Syriac was the vernacular of the Apostles) renders the text 
before us in a way well explained by Tremellius as "we think, 



N(,t<> 25 (p. 198). " That simple olcdlcncc is tic. path of salva- 
//V-w." In other words, it is enough for salvation or blessedness, 
that we should embrace the Divine decrees as laws or com 
mands ; there is no need to conceive them as eternal truths. 
This can be taught us by Revelation, not Reason, as appears 
from the demonstrations given in Chapter IV. 


Note 2G (p. 203). "No one can honestly promise fo forego the 
right which he has over all things" In the state of social life, 
where general right determines what is good or evil, stratagem 
is rightly distinguished as of two kinds, good and evil. But in 
the state of Nature, where every man is his own judge, possess 
ing the absolute right to lay down laws for himself, to interpret 
them as he pleases, or to abrogate them if ho thinks it con 
venient, it is not conceivable that stratagem should be evil. 

Note 27 (p. 20G). " Every inendcr of it may, if he will, be free." 
Whatever bo the social state a man finds himself in, he may 
be free. For certainly a man is free, in so far as he is led by 
reason. Now reason (though Hobbes thinks otherwise) is always 
on the side of peace, which cannot be attained unless the general 
laws of the state be respected. Therefore the more a man is led 
by reason in other words, the more he is free, the more con- 
Btantlv will he respect the laws of his country, and obey the 
commands of the sovereign power to which he is subject. 

Note 28 (p. 210). " No one knows by nature that he owes any 
obedience to God." When Paul says that men have in themselves 
no refuge, he speaks as a man : for in the ninth chapter of the 
Fame epistle he expressly teaches that God has mercy on whom 
lie will, and that men are without excuse, only because they are 
in God s power like clay in the hands of a potter, who out of the 
Fame lump makes vessels, some for honour and some for dis 
honour, not because they have been forewarned. As regards the 
Divine natural law whereof the chief commandment is, as we 
have said, to love God, I have called it a law in the same sense, 
as philosophers style laws those general rules of nature, accord 
ing to which everything happens. For the love of God is not a 
state of obedience : it is a virtue which necesarily exists in a 
man who knows God rightly. Obedience has regard to the will 
of a ruler, not to necessity and truth. Now as we are ignorant 
of the nature of God s will, and on the other hand know that 
everything happens solely by God s power, we cannot, except 
through revelation, know whether God wishes in any way to be 
honoured as a sovereign. 



Again ; we have shown that the Divine rights appear to us in 
the Fight of rights or commands, only so long as we are ignorant 
of their cause : as soon as their cause is known, they cease to be 
rights, and we embrace them no longer as rights but as eternal 
truths ; in other words, obedience passes into love of God, which 
emanates from true knowledge as necessarily as light emanates 
from the sun. Keason then leads us to love God, but cannot 
lead us to obey Him ; for we cannot embrace the commands of 
God as Divine, while we are in ignorance of their cause, neither 
can we rationally conceive God as a sovereign laying down laws 
as a sovereign. 


Note 29 (p. 214). " If men could lose their natural rights so 
as to be absolutely unable for the future to oppose the will of the 

Two common soldiers undertook to change the Eoman do 
minion, and did change it. (Tacitus, Hist. i. 7.) 

_ZVbte30(p.221). See Numbers -xi.ZS. In this passage it is written 
that two men prophesied in the camp, and that Joshua wished to 
punish them. This he would not have done, if it had been law 
ful for anyone to deliver the Divine oracles to the people without 
the consent of Moses. But Moses thought good to pardon the 
two men, and rebuked Joshua for exhorting him to use his royal 
prerogative, at a time when he was so weary of reigning, that he 
preferred death to holding undivided sway (Numb. xi. 14). For 
he made answer to Joshua, " Enviest thou for my sake ? Would 
God that all the Lord s people were prophets, and that the Lord 
would put His spirit upon them." That is to say, would God 
that the right of taking counsel of God were general, and the 
power were in the hands of the people. Thus Joshua was not 
mistaken as to the right, but only as to the time for using it, 
for which he was rebuked by Moses, in the same way as Abishai 
was rebuked by David for counselling that Shimei, who had 
undoubtedly been guilty of treason, should be put to death. See 
2 Sam. xix. 22, 23. 

Note 31 (p. 222). See Numbers xxvii. 21. The translators of the 
Bible have rendered incorrectly verses 19 and 23 of this chapter. 
The passage does not mean that Moses gave precepts or advice 
to Joshua, but that he made or established him chief of the 
Hebrews. The phrase is very frequent in Scripture (see Exodus, 
xviii. 23 ; 1 Sam. xiii. 15 ; Joshua i. 9 ; 1 Sam. xxv. 30). 

Note 32 (p. 224). " There ivas no judge over each of the captains 
save God." The Eabbis and some Christians equally foolish pre 
tend that the Sanhedrin, called "the great" was instituted by 
Moses. As a matter of fact, Moses chose seventy colleagues to 
assist him in governing, because he was not able to bear alone the 


burden of the whole people ; but he never passed any law for 
forming a college of seventy members ; on the contrary he ordered 
every tribe to appoint for itself, in the cities which God had given 
it, judges to settle disputes according to the laws which he him 
self had laid down. In cases where the opinions of the judges 
differed as to the interpretation of these laws, Moses bade them 
take counsel of the High Priest (who was the chief interpreter 
of the law), or of the chief judge, to whom they were then 
subordinate (who had the right of consulting the High Priest), 
and to decide the dispute in accordance with the answer obtained. 
If any subordinate judge should assert, that he was not bound by 
the decision of the High Priest, received either directly or through 
the chief of his state, such an one was to be put to death (Dent, 
xvii. 9) by the chief judge, whoever he might be, to whom ho 
was a subordinate. This chief judge would either be Joshua, 
the supreme captain of the whole people, or one of the tribal 
chiefs who had been entrusted, after the division of the tribes, 
with the right of consulting the high priest concerning the 
affairs of his tribe, of deciding on peace or war, of fortifying 
towns, of appointing inferior judges, &c. Or, again, it might be 
the king, in whom all or some of the tribes had vested their 

I could cite many instances in confirmation of what I here 
advance. I will confine myself to one, which appears to me the 
most important of all. When the Shilomitish prophet anointed 
Jeroboam king, ho, in so doing, gave him the right of cousultin" 
the high priest, of appointing judges, &c. In fact he endowed 
him with all the rights over the ten tribes, which Rehoboam 
retained over the two tribes. Consequently Jeroboam could set 
up a supreme council in his court with as much ri^ht as Jehosha- 
pkat could at Jerusalem (2 Chron. xix. 8). For it is plain that 

itlier Jeroboam, who was king by God s command, nor Jero 
boam s subjects, were bound by the Law of Moses to accept the 
judgments of Rehoboam, who was not their king. Still less were 
they under the jurisdiction ot the judge, whom Rehoboam had 

. up in Jerusalem as subordinate to himself. According 

lorefore, as the Hebrew dominion was divided, so was a 

supreme council set up in each division. Those who neglect the 

ions in the constitution of the Hebrew States, and confuse 

ogether m one, fall into numerous difficulties. 


Note 33 (p 256). I must here bespeak special attention for 
what was said in Chap. XVI. concerning rights. 















/^\UE author composed the Political Treatise shortly 
before his death. Its reasonings are exact, its style 
clear. Abandoning the opinions of many political writers, 
he most firmly propounds therein his own judgment ; and 
throughout draws his conclusions from his premisses. In 
the first five chapters, he treats of political science in 
general in the sixth and seventh, of monarchy; in the 
eighth, ninth, and tenth, of aristocracy ; lastly, the eleventh 
begins the subject of democratic government. But his 
untimely death was the reason that he did not finish this 
treatise, and that he did not deal with the subject of laws, 
nor with the various questions about politics, as may be 
seen from the following " Letter of the Author to a Friend, 
which may properly be prefixed to this Political Treatise, 
and serve it for a Preface :" 

" Dear Friend, Your welcome letter was delivered to me 
yesterday. I heartily thank you for the kind interest you 
take in me. I would not miss this opportunity, were I not 
engaged in something, which I think more useful, and 
which, I believe, will please you more that is, in preparing 
a Political Treatise, which I began some time since, upon 
your advice. Of this treatise, six chapters are already 
finished. The first contains a kind of introduction to the 
actual work ; the second treats of natural right ; the third, 
of the right of supreme authorities. In the fourth, I 


inquire, what political matters are subject to the direction 
of supreme authorities ; in the fifth, what is the ultimate 
and highest end which a society can contemplate ; and, in 
the sixth, how a monarchy should be ordered, so as not to 
lapse into a tyranny. I am at present writing the seventh 
chapter, wherein I make a regular demonstration of all the 
heads of my preceding sixth chapter, concerning the order 
ing of a well-regulated monarchy. I shall afterwards pass 
to the subjects of aristocratic and popular dominion, and, 
lastly, to that of laws and other particular questions about 
politics. And so, farewell." 

The author s aim appears clearly from this letter ; but 
being hindered by illness, and snatched away by death, he 
was unable, as the reader will find for himself, to continue 
this work further than to the end of the subject of 



1-3. Of the theory and practice of political science . . . 287 

4. Of the authors design . ( 288 

5. Of the force of the passions in men 289 

6, 7. That we must not look to proofs of reason for the causes 

and foundations of dominion, but deduce them from the 

general nature or condition of mankind .... 289 


1. Right, natural and civil 9 ,291 

2. Essence, ideal and real .... ! 291 
3-5. What natural right is ,291 

6. The vulgar opinion about liberty. Of the first man s fall . 292 
7-iO. Of liberty and necessity 294 

11. He is free, who is led by reason ... \ 295 

12. Of giving and breaking one s word by natural right . . 296 

13. Of alliances formed between men ..... 296 

14. Men naturally enemies ] 296 

15. The more there are that come together, the more right all 

collectively have 296 

16. Every one has so much the less right, the more the rest 

collectively exceed him in power ..... 297 

17. Of dominion and its three kinds . . 297 

18. That in the state of nature one can do no wrong . 297 
19-21. What wrong-doing and obedience are . 298 

22. The free man j 299 

23. The just and unjust man 299 

24. Praise and blame 300 


1. A commonwealth, affairs of state, citizens, subjects . . 301 

2. Right of a dominion same as natural right . . 301 
3-4. By the ordinance of the commonwealth a citizen may not 

live after his own mind 301 

5-9. Every citizen is dependent not on himself, but on the com 
monwealth . . m 302 

10. A question about religion. .,,,., 305 



11, 12. Of the right of supreme authorities against the world at 

large 306 

13. Two commonwealths naturally hostile .... 306 

14-18. Of the state of treaty, war, and peace .... 307 


1-3. What matters are affairs of state . . . . 309 
4-6. In what sense it can, in what it cannot be said, that a com 
monwealth does wrong 310 


I. That is best which is ordered according to the dictate of 

reason 313 

2-6. The end of the civil state. The best dominion . . . 313 
7. Machiavelli and his design 315 


1-3. Of the causes of establishing a dominion .... 316 

4. Of conferring the authority on one man .... 317 
5-8. Of the nature of a monarchy. Of the foundations of a 

monarchical dominion 317 

9. Of cities 319 

in. Of the militia and its commanders 319 

II. Of dividing the citizens into clans 

12. Of lands and houses 319 

13, 14. Of the election of the king and of the nobles . . . 320 

15,16. Of the king s counsellors 320 

17-25. Of the supreme council s functions . . . . . 321 

20-29. Of another council for administering justice . . . 323 

30. Of other subordinate councils 324 

31. Of the payment of the militia 324 

32. Of the rights of foreigners 325 

33. Of ambassadors 325 

34. Of the king s servants and body-guard .... 325 

35. Of waging war 325 

36. Of the king s marriage 326 

37,38. Of the heir to tin- dominion 32C 

39. Of the obedience of the citi/.crs 326 

40. Of religion 326 


1. The monarch is not chosen unconditionally. The Persian 

kings. Ulysses 327 

2. Nature of our monarchy the best and true one . . . 328 

3. It is necessary that the monarch have counsellors . . 328 


4, The counsellors must necessarily be representative . , 

5. Ihe king s right is to select one of the opinions offered by 

the council ...... 32g 

6-11. The great advantages of this council*. . . . * 330 

12. The militia to be composed of citizens only . t 332 

13. How the counsellors are to be chosen 
14, 15. King s safety. Evidence of history . 

16. Cities to be fortified ....." 334 

17. Of mercenaries and military commanders . 

18. Citizens to be divided into clans . . . 336 

19. The soil to be the common property of the commonwealth 336 

20. JNone to be noble but the issue of kings .... 335 

21. Judges to be appointed for a term of years 337 

22. The militia to be given no pay . . . 337 

23. Of foreigners and the king s kinsmen . * 338 

24. Of the dangers from the king s marriage. Evidence of 

history .......... 33g 

25. Of the right of succession to the kingdom . 339 

26. Of the right of worshipping God .... 349 

27. All men s nature is one and the same . 340 
23. Of the most durable dominion of all . . ] 341 

29. Of hardly concealing the plans of the dominion . " .* 342 

30. Ihe example of the dominion of the Arragonrso . . 342 
81. That the multitude may preserve under a kino- an ample 

enough liberty ...... . . 344 


1. What aristocracy is. Patricians ... . 345 

2. An aristocracy should consist of a large number of patri 

cians ........ * 345 

3. Difference between monarchy and aristocracy . .* . 345 
4-G. Aristocracy approaches nearer to absolutism than monarchy* 347-8 

7. Is also fitter to maintain liberty. Foundations of an aris 

tocracy where one city is head of a whole dominion , 348 

8. Of fortifying towns ....... 348 

9. Of the military and its leaders . . . . 349 

10. Of the sale of lands and farms .... 350 

11. Of the supreme council of patricians . . .".! 350 

12. Of the causes of the destruction of an aristocracy . . 351 

13. The primary law of this dominion, to prevent its lapsing 

into oligarchy ...... ! 351 

14, 15. Patricians to be chosen out of certain families . 352 

16. Of the place and time of assembling . *. 

17. Of the supreme council s functions . . . . 353 

18. Of the ruler or chief of the council . 353 

19. Equality to be observed among patricians . . . 353 
20-25. Of the syndics and their functions . . . . 354 
26,27. Of the ministers of the dominion . . . 355 

28. Voting to be by ballot ..... 



29-33. Of the senate or second council 358 

34-36. Of the presidents of the senate and their deputies. Consuls 361 

37-41. Of the bench or college of judges 363 

42. Governors of cities and provinces. Kight of the neigh 

bouring cities ......... 366 

43. Judges to be appointed in every city .... 367 

44. Ministers of dominion to be chosen from the commons . 367 

45. Of the tribunes of the treasury 368 

46. Of freedom of worship and speech 368 

47. Of the bearing and state of the patricians .... 368 

48. Of the oath 369 

49. Of academies and liberty of teaching .... 369 


1. Of the aristocratic dominion held by more than one city . 370 

2. Confederate cities 370 

3. Of points common to both kinds of aristocracy . . . 370 

4. Of the common bond of the cities by a senate and tribunal 371 

5. Supreme council and senate 371 

6. Of assembling this council, of choosing generals and am 

bassadors, of the presidents of the orders, judges, &c. . 372 

7. Of commanders of battalions and military tribunes . . 373 

8. Of tributes 373 

9. Of the senators emoluments and place of meeting . . 374 

10. Of the councils and syndics of the separate cities . . 374 

11. Consuls of cities ........ 374 

12. Judges of cities 375 

13. Of dependent cities 375 

14, 15. This kind of aristocracy to be preferred to the other. . 375 


1. Primary cause, why aristocracies are dissolved. Of a 

dictator 3 ^8 

2. Of the supreme council 379 

3. Of the tribunes of the commons among the Komans . . 380 

4. Of the authority of the syndics 380 

6. Sumptuary laws . . . . .381 

6,7. Vices not to be forbidden directly, but indirectly . . 381 

8. Honours and rewards rejected 382 

9, 10. An aristocracy may be stable 383 


1, 2. Difference between democracy and aristocracy . 385 

3. Of the nature of democracy .... 386 

4. Women to be excluded from government 387 




PHILOSOPHERS conceive of the passions which harass 
us as vices into which men fall by their own fault, 
and, therefore, generally deride, bewail, or blame them, or 
execrate them, if they wish to seem unusually pious. And 
so they think they are doing something wonderful, and 
reaching the pinnacle of learning, when they are clever 
enough to bestow manifold praise on such human nature, 
as is nowhere to be found, and to make verbal attacks on 
that which, in fact, exists. For they conceive of men, not 
as they are, but as they themselves would like them to be. 
Whence it has come to pass that, instead of ethics, they 
have generally written satire, and that they have never 
conceived a theory of politics, which could be turned to use, 
but such as might be taken for a chimera, or might have 
been formed in Utopia, or in that golden age of the poets 
when, to be sure, there was least need of it. Accordingly, 
as in all sciences, which have a useful application, so 
especially in that of politics, theory is supposed to be at 
variance with practice ; and no men are esteemed less fit to 
direct public affairs than theorists or philosophers. 

2. But statesmen, on the other hand, are suspected of 
plotting against mankind, rather than consulting their 


interests, and are esteemed more crafty than learned. No 
doubt nature lias taught them, that vices will exist, while 
men do. And so, while they study to anticipate human 
wickedness, and that by arts, which experience and long 
practice have taught, and which men generally use under 
the guidance more of fear than of reason, they are thought 
to be enemies of religion, especially by divines, who believe 
that supreme authorities should handle public affairs in 
accordance with the same rules of piety, as bind a private 
individual. Yet there can be no doubt, that statesmen 
have written about politics far more happily than philo 
sophers. For, as they had experience for their mistress, 
they taught nothing that was inconsistent with practice. 

3. And, certainly, I am fully persuaded that experience 
has revealed all conceivable sorts of commonwealth, which 
are consistent with men s living in unity, and likewise the 
means by which the multitude may be guided or kept 
within fixed bounds. So that I do not believe that we can 
by meditation discover in this matter anything not yet tried 
and ascertained, which shall be consistent with experience 
or practice. For men are so situated, that they cannot live 
without some general law. But general laws and public 
affairs are ordained and managed by men of the utmost 
acuteness, or, if you like, of great cunning or craft. And 
so it is hardly credible, that we should be able to conceive 
of anything serviceable to a general society, that occasion or 
chance has not offered, or that men, intent upon their 
common affairs, and seeking their own safety, have not seen 
for themselves. 

4. Therefore, on applying xny mind to politics, I have re 
solved to demonstrate by a certain and undoubted course 
of argument, or to deduce from the very condition of 
human nature, not what is new and unheard of, but only 
such things as agree best with practice. And that I might 
investigate the subject-matter of this science with the same 
freedom of spirit as we generally use in mathematics, 1 
have laboured carefully, not to mock, lament, or execrate, 
but to understand human actions ; and to this end I have 
looked upon passions, such as love, hatred, anger, envy, 
ambition, pity, and the other perturbations of the mind, 
uot in the light of vices of human nature, but as properties, 

SEcs. 2-6.] INTRODUCTION. 289 

just as pertinent to it, as are heat, cold, storm, thunder, 
and the like to the nature of the atmosphere, which phe 
nomena, though inconvenient, are yet necessary, and have 
fixed causes, by means of which we endeavour to under 
stand their nature, and the mind has just as much pleasure 
in viewing them aright, as in knowing such things as flatter 
the senses. 

5. For this is certain, and we have proved its truth in 
our Ethics, l that men are of necessity liable to passions, 
and so constituted as to pity those who are ill, and envy 
those who are well off ; and to be prone to vengeance more 
than to mercy : and moreover, that every individual wishes 
the rest to live after his own mind, and to approve what he 
approves, and reject what he rejects. And so it comes to 
pass, that, as all are equally eager to be first, they fall to 
strife, and do their utmost mutually to oppress one an 
other ; and he who comes out conqueror is more proud of 
the harm he has done to the other, than of the good he has 
done to himself. And although all are persuaded, that re 
ligion, on the contrary, teaches every man to love his neigh 
bour as himself, that is to defend another s right just as 
much as his own, yet we showed that this persuasion has 
too little power over the passions. It avails, indeed, in the 
hour of death, when disease has subdued the very passions, 
and man lies inert, or in temples, where men hold no 
traffic, but least of all, where it is most needed, in the 
law-court or the palace. We showed too, that reason 
can, indeed, do much to restrain and moderate the passions, 
but we saw at the same time, that the road, which reason 
herself points out, is very steep ; a so that such as persuade 
themselves, that the multitude or men distracted by politics 
can ever be induced to live according to the bare dictate 
of reason, must be dreaming of the poetic golden age, or of 
a stage-play. 

6. A dominion then, whose well-being depends on any 
man s good faith, and whose affairs cannot be properly 
administered, unless those who are engaged in them will 
act honestly, will be very unstable. On the contrary, to 
iusure its permanence, its public affairs should be so 

Ethics, iv. 4, Coroll. iii. 31, note; 32, note. 
Ibid., v. 42, nnte. 


ordered, that those who administer them, whether guided 
"by reason or passion, cannot be led to act treacherously or 
"basely. Nor does it matter to the security of a dominion, 
in what spirit men are led to rightly administer its affairs. 
For liberality of spirit, or courage, is a private virtue ; but 
the virtue of a state is its security. 

7. Lastly, inasmuch as all men, whether barbarous or 
civilized, everywhere frame customs, and form some kind 
of civil state, we must not, therefore, look to proofs of 
reason for the causes and natural bases of dominion, but 
derive them from the general nature or position of man 
kind, as I mean to do in the next chapter. 

8ECS. 1-3.] OF NATURAL RIGHT. 291 



IN our Theologico-Political Treatise we have treated of 
natural and civil right, 1 and in our Ethics have explained 
the nature of wrong-doing, merit, justice, injustice, 2 and 
lastly, of human liberty. 3 Yet, lest the readers of the 
present treatise should have to seek elsewhere those points, 
which especially concern it, I have determined to explain 
them here again, and give a deductive proof of them. 

2. Any natural thing whatever can be just as well con 
ceived, whether it exists or does not exist. As then the 
beginning of the existence of natural things cannot be in 
ferred from their definition, so neither can their continuing 
to exist. For their ideal essence is the same, after they 
have begun to exist, as it was before they existed. As 
then their beginning to exist cannot be inferred from their 
essence, so neither can their continuing to exist ; but they 
need the same power to enable them to go on existing, as 
to enable them to begin to exist. From which it follows, 
that the power, by which natural things exist, and there 
fore that by which they operate, can be no other than the 
eternal power of God itself. For were it another and a 
created power, it could not preserve itself, much less 
natural things, but it would itself, in order to continue to 
exist, have need of the same power which it needed to be 

3. From this fact therefore, that is, that the power 
whereby natural things exist and operate is the very power 
of God itself, we easily understand what natural right is. 
For as God has a right to everything, and God s right is 
nothing else, but his very power, as far as the latter is con- 

1 Thcologico-Political Treatise, Chap. xvi. 

2 Ethics, iv. 37, note 52. 3 Ibid., ii. 48, 49, note. 


sidcred to be absolutely free ; it follows from this, that 
every natural thing has by nature as much right, as it has 
power to exist and operate ; since the natural power of 
every natural thing, whereby it exists and operates, ia 
nothing else but the power of God, which is absolutely 


4. And so by natural right I understand the very laws 
or rules of nature, in accordance with which everything 
takes place, in other words, the power of nature itself. And 
so the natural right of universal nature, and consequently 
of every individual thing, extends as far as its power : and 
accordingly, whatever any man does after the laws of his 
nature, he does by the highest natural right, and he has 
as much right over nature as he has power. 

5. If then human nature had been so constituted, that 
men should live according to the mere dictate of reason, 
and attempt nothing inconsistent therewith, in that case 
natural right, considered as special to mankind, would Le 
determined by the power of reason only. But men are 
more led by blind desire, than by reason : and therefore 
the natural power or right of human beings should be 
limited, not by reason, but by ever} appetite, whereby they 
are determined to action, or seek their own preservation. 
I, for my part, admit, that those desires, which arise not 
from reason, are not so much actions as passive affections 
of man. But as we are treating here of the universal 
power or right of nature, we cannot here recognize any 
distinction between desires, which are engendered in us by 
reason, and those which are engendered by other causes ; 
since the latter, as much as the former, are effects of 
nature, and display the natural impulse, by which man 
strives to continue in existence. For man, be he learned 
or ignorant, is part of nature, and everything, by which 
any man is determined to action, ought to be referred to 
the power of nature, that is, to that power, as it is limited 
by the nature of this or that man. For man, whether 
guided by reason or mere desire, does nothing save in 
accordance with the laws and rules of nature, that is, by 
natural right. (Section 4.) 

6. But most people believe, that the ignorant rather dis 
turb tWii follow the course of nature, and conceive of 


mankind in nature as of one dominion within another. 
For they maintain, that the human mind is produced by 
no natural causes, but created directly by God, and is so 
independent of other things, that it has an absolute power 
to determine itself, and make a right use of reason. Ex 
perience, however, teaches us but too well, that it is no 
more in our power to have a sound mind, than a sound 
body. Next, inasmuch as everything whatever, as far as 
in it lies, strives to preserve its own existence, we cannot 
at all doubt, that, were it as much in our power to live 
after the dictate of reason, as to be led by blind desire, 
all would be led by reason, and order their lives wisely ; 
which is very far from being the case. For 

" Each is attracted by his own delight." l 

Nor do divines remove this difficulty, at least not by 
deciding, that the cause of this want of power is a vice or 
sin in human nature, deriving its origin from our first 
parents fall. For if it was even in the first man s power 
as much to stand as to fall, and he was in possession of his 
senses, and had his nature unimpaired, how could it be, 
that he fell in spite of his knowledge and foresight ? But 
they say, that he was deceived by the devil. Who then 
was it, that deceived the devil himself? Who, I say, so 
maddened the very being that excelled all other created 
intelligences, that he wished to be greater than God ? For 
was not his effort too, supposing him of sound mind, to 
preserve himself and his existence, as far as in him lay ? 
Besides, how could it happen, that the first man himself, 
being in his senses, and master of his own will, should be 
led astray, and suffer himself to be taken mentally captive ? 
For if he had the power to make a right use of reason, it 
was not possible for him to be deceived, for as far as in 
him lay, he of necessity strove to preserve his existence and 
his soundness of mind. But the hypothesis is, that he had 
this in his power ; therefore he of necessity maintained his 
soundness of mind, and could not be deceived. But this 
from his history, is known to be false. And, accordingly, 
it must be admitted, that it was not in the first inan a 

1 Virgil, Eel. ii. 65, 


power to make a right use of reason, but that, like us, he 
was subject to passions. 

7. But that man, like other beings, as far as in him lies, 
strives to preserve his existence, no one can deny. For if 
any distinction could be conceived on this point, it must 
arise from man s having a free will. But the freer we 
conceived man to be, the more we should be forced to 
maintain, that he must of necessity preserve his existence 
and be in possession of his senses ; as anyone will easily 
grant me, that does not confound liberty with contingency. 
For liberty is a virtue, or excellence. Whatever, therefore, 
convicts a man of weakness cannot be ascribed to his 
liberty. And so man can by no means be called free, be 
cause he is able not to exist or not to use his reason, but only 
in so far as he preserves the power of existing and operat 
ing according to the laws of human nature. The more, 
therefore, \ve consider man to be free, the less we can say, 
that he can neglect to use reason, or choose evil in prefe 
rence to good ; and, therefore, God, who exists in absolute 
liberty, also understands and operates of necessity, that is, 
exists*, understands, and operates according to the necessity 
of his own nature. For there is no doubt, that God 
operates by the same liberty whereby he exists. As then 
he exists by the necessity of his own nature, by the neces 
sity of his own nature also he acts, that is, he acts with 
absolute liberty. 

8. So we conclude, that it is not in the power of any 
man always to use his reason, and be at the highest pitch 
of human liberty, and yet that everyone always, as far as 
in him lies, strives to preserve his own existence ; and that 
(since each has as much right as he has power) whatever 
anyone, be he learned or ignorant, attempts and does, he 
attempts and does by supreme natural right. From which 
it follows that the law and ordinance of nature, under which 
all men are born, and for the most part live, forbids nothing 
but what no one wishes or is able to do, and is not opposed 
to strifes, hatred, anger, treachery, or, in general, anything 
that appetite suggests. For the bounds of nature are not 
the laws of human reason, which do but pursue the true 
interest and preservation of mankind, but other infinite 
laws, which regard the eternal order of universal nature, 


whereof man is an atom ; and according to the necessity of 
this order only are all individual beings determined in a 
fixed manner to exist and operate. Whenever, then, any- 
thing in nature seems to ns ridiculous, absurd, or evil, it is 
because we have but a partial knowledge of things, and 
are in the main ignorant of the order and coherence of 
nature as a whole, and because we want everything to be 
arranged according to the dictate of our own reason; 
although, in fact, what our reason pronounces bad, is not 
bad as regards the order and laws of universal nature, 
but only as regards the laws of our own nature taken 

separately. . ,, 

9. Besides, it follows that everyone is so tar rigntiuily 
dependent on another, as he is under that other s authority, 
and so far independent, as he is able to repel all violence, 
and avenge to his heart s content all damage done to him, 
and in general to live after his own mind. 

10. He has another under his authority, who holds him 
bound, or has taken from him arms and means of defence 
or escape, or inspired him with fear, or so attached him to 
himself by past favour, that the man obliged would rather 
please his benefactor than himself, and live after his mind 
than after his own. He that has another under authority 
in the first or second of these ways, holds but his body, 
not his mind. But in the third or fourth way he has 
made dependent on himself as well the mind as the body 
of the other ; yet only as long as the fear or hope lasts, 
for upon the removal of the feeling the other is left in 

11. The judgment can be dependent on another, only as 
far as that other can deceive the mind ; whence it follows 
that the mind is so far independent, as it uses reason 
ario-ht. Nay, inasmuch as human power is to be reckoned 
less by physical vigour than by mental strength, it follows 
that those men are most independent whose reason is 
strongest, and who are most guided thereby. And so I am 
altogether for calling a man so far free, as he is led by 
reason because so far he is determined to action by suck 
causes, as can be adequately understood by his unassisted 
nature, although by these causes he be necessarily de 
termined to action. For liberty, as we showed above 


(Sec. 7), docs not take away the necessity of acting, but 
supposes it. 

12. The pledging of faith to any man, where one has but 
verbally promised to do this or that, which one might right- 
fully leave undone, or vice versa, remains so long valid as 
the will of him that gave his word remains unchanged. 
For he that has authority to break faith has, in fact, bated 
nothing of his own right, but only made a present of words. 
If, then, he, being by natural right judge in his own case, 
comes to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly (for " to err is 
human"), that more harm than profit will come of his 
promise, by the judgment of his own mind he decides that 
the promise should be broken, and by natural right 
(Sec. 9) he will break the same. 

13. If two come together and unite their strength, they 
have jointly more power, and consequently more right over 
nature than both of them separately, and the more there 
are that have so joined in alliance, the more right they all 
collectively will possess. 

14. In so far as men are tormented by anger, envy, or 
any passion implying hatred, they are drawn asunder and 
made contrary one to another, and therefore are so much 
the more to be feared, as they are more powerful, crafty, 
and cunning than the other animals. And because men 
are m the highest degree liable to these passions (Chap. I, 
Sec. 5), therefore men are naturally enemies. For he is 
my greatest enemy, whom I must most fear and be on my 
guard against. 

15. But inasmuch as (Sec. 6) in the state of nature each 
5 so long independent, as he can guard against oppression 

by another, and it is in vain for one man alone to try and 
guard against all, it follows hence that so long as the 
natural right of man is determined by the power of every 
individual, and belongs to everyone, so long it is a nonen 
tity, existing in opinion rather than fact, as there is no 
assurance of making it good. And it is certain that the 
greater cause of fear every individual has, the less power, 
and consequently the less right, he possesses. To this must 
>o added, that without mutual help men can hardly sup- 
life and cultivate the mind. And so our conclusion is, 
that that natural right, wliich is special to the human race, 

SECS. 11-18. ] OF NATURAL EIGHT. 297 

can hardly be conceived, except where men have general 
rights, and combine to defend the possession of the lands 
they inhabit and cultivate, to protect themselves, to repel 
all violence, and to live according to the general judgment 
of all. For (Sec. 13) the more there are that combine 
together, the more right they collectively possess. And if 
this is why the schoolmen want to call man a sociable 
animal I mean because men in the state of nature can 
hardly be independent I have nothing to say against 

16. Where men have general rights, and are all guided, 
as it were, by one mind, it is certain (Sec. 13), that every 
individual has the less right the more the rest collectively 
exceed him in power; that is, he has, in fact, no right 
over nature but that which the common law allows him. 
But whatever he is ordered by the general consent, he is 
bound to execute, or may rightfully be compelled thereto 

(^^GC ~E) . 

17. This right, which is determined by the power of a 
multitude, is generally called Dominion. And, speaking 
generally, he holds dominion, to whom are entrusted by 
common consent affairs of state such as the laying down, 
interpretation, and abrogation of laws, the fortification of 
cities, deciding on war and peace, &c. But if this charge 
belong to a council, composed of the general multitude, 
then the dominion is called a democracy ; if the council be 
composed of certain chosen persons, then it is an aristocracy ; 
and if, lastly, the care of affairs of state and, consequently, 
the dominion rest with one man, then it has the name of 

18. From what we have proved in this chapter, it be 
comes clear to us that, in the state of nature, wrong-doing 
is impossible ; or, if anyone does wrong, it is to himself 
not to another. For no one by the law of nature is bound 
to please another, unless he chooses, nor to hold anything 
to be good or evil, but what he himself, according to his 
own temperament, pronounces to be so; and, to speak 
generally, nothing is forbidden by the law of nature, except 
what is beyond everyone s power (Sees. 5 and 8). But wrong 
doing is action, which cannot lawfully be committed. But 
if men by the ordinance of nature were bound to be led by 


reason, then all of necessity would be so led For -the 
ordinances of nature are the ordinances ot (rod (bees. 4, 6), 
which God has instituted by the liberty, whereby he exists, 
and thev follow, therefore, from the necessity of the divine 
nature (Sec. 7), and, consequently, are eternal, and cannot 
be broken But men are chiefly guided by appetite, with 
out reason ; yet for all this they do not disturb the course 
of nature, but follow it of necessity. And, therefore, a man 
icrnorant and weak of mind, is no more bound by natural 
law to order his life wisely, than a sick man is bound 
sound of body. 

19. Therefore wrong-doing cannot be conceived ot, r ut 
under dominion that is, where, by the general right of 
the whole dominion, it is decided what is good and what 
evil and where no one does anything rightfully, save what 
he does in accordance with the general decree or consent 
(Sec 16) For that, as we said in the last section, is 
wrongdoing, which cannot lawfully be committed, or is by 
law forbidden. But obedience is the constant will to 
execute that, which by law is good, and by the general 
decree ought to be done. 

20. Yet we are accustomed to call that also wrc 
which is done against the sentence of sound reason, and 
to give the name of obedience to the constant will to 
moderate the appetite according to the dictate of reason : 
a manner of speech which I should quite approve, did 
human liberty consist in the licence of appetite and 
slavery in the dominion of reason. But as human liberty 
is the greater, the more man can be guided by reason, 
and moderate his appetite, we cannot without great im 
propriety call a rational life obedience, and give the name 
of wrong-doing to that which is, in fact, a weakness of 
the mind, not a licence of the mind directed against itsell, 
and for which a man may be called a slave, rather than 
free (Sees. 7 and 11). 

21 However, as reason teaches one to practise piety, ai 
be of a calm and gentle spirit, which cannot be done save 
under dominion; and, further, as it is impossible for a 
multitude to be guided, as it were, by one mind, as under 
dominion is required, unless it has laws ordained according 
U the dictate of reason; men who are accustomed to hvo 

SECS. 18-23.] OF NATURAL EIGHT. 299 

under dominion are not, therefore, using words so im 
properly, when they call that wrong-doing which is done 
against the sentence of reason, because the laws of the best 
dominion ought to be framed according to that dictate 
(Sec. 18). But, as for my saying (Sec. 18) that man in a 
state of nature, if he does wrong at all, does it against him 
self, see, on this point, Chap. IV., Sees. 4, 5, where is 
shown, in what sense we can say, that he who holds 
dominion and possesses natural right, is bound by laws and 
can do wrong. 

22. As far as religion is concerned, it is further clear, 
that a man is most free and most obedient to himself when 
he most loves God, and worships him in sincerity. But so 
far as we regard, not the course of nature, which we do 
not understand, but the dictates of reason only, which 
respect religion, and likewise reflect that these dictates are 
revealed to us by God, speaking, as it were, within our 
selves, or else were revealed to prophets as laws ; so far, 
speaking in human fashion, we say that man obeys God 
when he worships him in sincerity, and, on the contrary, 
does wrong when he is led by blind desire. But, at the 
same time, we should remember that we are subject to 
God s authority, as clay to that of the potter, who of the 
same lump makes some vessels unto honour, and others 
unto dishonour. 1 And thus man can, indeed, act contrarily 
to the decrees of God, as far as they have been written like 
laws in the minds of ourselves or the prophets, but against 
that eternal decree of God, which is written in universal 
nature, and has regard to the course of nature as a whole, he 
can do nothing. 

23. As, then, wrong-doing and obedience, in their strict 
sense, so also justice and injustice cannot be conceived of, 
except under dominion. For nature offers nothing that 
can be called this man s rather than another s ; but under 
nature everything belongs to all that is, they have autho 
rity to claim it for themselves. But under dominion, where 
it is by common law determined what belongs to this man, 
and what to that, he is called just who has a constant will 
to render to every man his own, but he unjust who strives, 

1 IJomans ix. 21. 


on the contrary, to make his own that which belongs to 

24. But that praise and blame are emotions of joy and 
sadness, accompanied by an idea of human excellence or 
weakness as their cause, we have explained in our Ethics. 




UNDER every dominion the state is said to be Civil ; 
but the entire body subject to a dominion is called a 
Commonwealth, and the general business of the dominion, 
subject to the direction of him that holds it, has the name 
of Affairs of State. Next we call men Citizens, as far as 
they enjoy by the civil law all the advantages of the 
commonwealth, and Subjects, as far as they are bound to 
obey its ordinances or laws. Lastly, we have already said 
that, of the civil state, there are three kinds democracy, 
aristocracy, and monarchy (Chap. II. Sec. 17). Now, before 
I begin to treat of each kind separately, I will first deduce 
all the properties of the civil state in general. And of 
these, first of all comes to be considered the supreme right 
of the commonwealth, or the right of the supreme 

2. From Chap. II. Sec. 15, it is clear that the right of 
the supreme authorities is nothing else than simple natural 
right, limited, indeed, by the power, not of every individual, 
but of the multitude, which is guided, as it were, by one 
mind that is, as each individual in the state of nature, so 
the body and mind of a dominion have as much right as 
they have power. And thus each single citizen or subject 
has the less right, the more the commonwealth exceeds him 
in power (Chap. II. Sec. 16), and each citizen consequently 
does and has nothing, but what he may by the general 
decree of the commonwealth defend. 

3. If the commonwealth grant to any man the right, 
and therewith the authority (for else it is but a gift of 
words, Chap. II. Sec. 12), to live after his own mind, by that 
very act it abandons its own right, and transfers the same 

302 A rollTlCAl TREATISE. [ciIAt 1 . lit 

to him, to whom it has given such authority. But if it 
has given this authority to two or more, I mean authority 
to live each after his own mind, by that very act it has 
divided the dominion, and if, lastly, it has given this same 
authority to every citizen, it has thereby destroyed itself, 
and there remains no more a commonwealth, but every 
thing returns to the state of nature ; all of which is very 
manifest from what goes before. And thus it follows, 
that it can by no means be conceived, that every citizen 
should by the ordinance of the commonwealth live after 
his own mind, and accordingly this natural right of being 
one s own judge ceases in the civil state. I say expressly 
" by the ordinance of the commonwealth," for, if we weigh 
the matter aright, the natural right of every man does not 
cease in the civil state. For man, alike in the natural and 
in the civil state, acts according to the laws of his own 
nature, and consults his own interest. Man, I say, in each 
state is led by fear or hope to do or leave undone this or 
that ; but the main difference between the two states is 
this, that in the civil state all fear the same things, and all 
have the same ground of security, and manner of life ; and 
this certainly does not do away with the individual s faculty 
of judgment. For he that is minded to obey all the 
commonwealth s orders, whether through fear of its power 
or through love of quiet, certainly consults after his own 
heart his own safety and interest. 

4. Moreover, we cannot even conceive, that every citizen 
should be allowed to interpret the commonwealth s decrees 
or laws. For were every citizen allowed this, he would 
thereby be his own judge, because each would easily bo 
able to give a colour of right to his own deeds, which by 
the last section is absurd. 

5. We see then, that every citizen depends not on him 
self, but on the commonwealth, all whose commands he is 
bound to execute, and has no right to decide, what is 
equitable or iniquitous, just or unjust. But, on the con 
trary, as the body of the dominion should, so to speak, be 
guided by one mind, and consequently the will of the 
commonwealth must be taken to be the will of all ; what 
the state decides to be just and good must be held to be 
BO decided by every individual. And so, however iniquitous 


the subject may think the commonwealth s decisions, he is 
none the less bound to execute them. 

6. But (it may be objected) is it not contrary to the 
dictate of reason to subject one s self wholly to the judgment 
of another, and consequently, is not the civil state repug 
nant to reason? Whence it would follow, that the civil 
state is irrational, and could only be created by men desti 
tute of reason, not at all by such as are led by it. But 
since reason teaches nothing contrary to nature, sound 
reason cannot therefore dictate, that every one should 
remain independent, so long as men are liable to passions 
(Chap. II. Sec. 15), that is, reason pronounces against such 
independence (Chap. I. Sec. 5). Besides, reason altogether 
teaches to seek peace, and peace cannot be maintained, 
unless the commonwealth s general laws be kept unbroken. 
And so, the more a man is guided by reason, that is 
(Chap. H. Sec. 11), the more he is free, the more constantly 
he will keep the laws of the commonwealth, and execute the 
commands of the supreme authority, whose subject he is. 
Furthermore, the civil state is naturally ordained to remove 
general fear, and prevent general sufferings, and therefore 
pursues above everything the very end, after which every 
one, who is led by reason, strives, but in the natural state 
strives vainly (Chap. II. Sec. 15). Wherefore, if a man, 
who is led by reason, has sometimes to do by the common 
wealth s order what he knows to be repugnant to reason, 
that harm is far compensated by the good, which he de 
rives from the existence of a civil state. For it is reason s 
own law, to choose the less of two evils ; and accordingly 
we may conclude, that no one is acting against the dictate 
of his own reason, so far as he does what by the law of the 
commonwealth is to be done. And this anyone will more 
easily grant us, after we have explained, how far the power 
and consequently the right of the commonwealth extends. 

7. For, first of all, it must be considered, that, as in the 
state of nature the man who is led by reason is most 
powerful and most independent, so too that commonwealth 
will be most powerful and most independent, which is 
founded and guided by reason. For the right of the 
commonwealth is determined by the power of the multi 
tude, which is led, as it were, by one mind. But this 


unity of mind can in no wise be conceived, unless the 
commonwealth pursues chiefly the very end, which sound 
reason teaches is to the interest of all men. 

8. In the second place it comes to be considered, that 
subjects are so far dependent not on themselves, but on 
the commonwealth, as they fear its power or threats, or 
as they love the civil state (Chap. II. Sect. 10). Whence it 
follows, that such things, as no one can be induced to do 
by rewards or threats, do not fall within the rights of the 
commonwealth. For instance, by reason of his faculty of 
judgment, it is in no man s power to believe. For by what 
rewards or threats can a man be brought to believe, that 
the whole is not greater than its part, or that God does 
not exist, or that that is an infinite being, which he sees to 
be finite, or generally anything contrary to his sense or 
thought ? So, too, by what rewards or threats can a man 
be brought to love one, whom he hates, or to hate one, 
whom he loves? And to this head must likewise be 
referred such things as are so abhorrent to human nature, 
that it regards them as actually worse than any evil, as 
that a man should be witness against himself, or torture 
himself, or kill his parents, or not strive to avoid death, 
and the like, to which no one can be induced by rewards 
or threats. But if we still choose to say, that the common 
wealth has the right or authority to order such things, we 
can conceive of it in no other sense, than that in which one 
might say, that a man has the right to be mad or delirious. 
For what but a delirious fancy would such a right be, as 
could bind no one ? And here I am speaking expressly of 
such things as cannot be subject to the right of a com 
monwealth and are abhorrent to human nature in general. 
For the fact, that a fool or madman can by no rewards or 
threats be induced to execute orders, or that this or that 
person, because he is attached to this or that religion, 
judges the laws of a dominion worse than any possible 
evil, in no wise makes void the laws of the commonwealth, 
since by them most of the citizens are restrained. And 
BO, as those who are without fear or hope are so far in 
dependent (Chap. II. Sec. 10), they are, therefore, enemies 
of the dominion (Chap. II. Sec. 14), and may lawfully be 
coerced by force. 


9. Thirdly and lastly, it comes to be considered, that 
those things are not so much within the commonwealth s 
right, which cause indignation in the majority. For it is 
certain, that by the guidance of nature men conspire to 
gether, either through common fear, or with the desire to 
avenge some common hurt ; and as the right of the com 
monwealth is determined by the common power of the 
multitude, it is certain that the power and right of the 
commonwealth are so far diminished, as it gives occasion 
for many to conspire together. There are certainly some 
subjects of fear for a commonwealth, and as every sepa 
rate citizen or in the state of nature every man, so a com 
monwealth is the less independent, the greater reason it 
has to fear. So much for the right of supreme authorities 
over subjects. Now before I treat of the right of the said 
authorities as against others, we had better resolve a ques 
tion commonly mooted about religion. 

10. For it may be objected to us, Do not the civil state, 
and the obedience of subjects, such as we have shown is 
required in the civil state, do away with religion, whereby 
we are bound to worship God ? But if we consider the 
matter, as it really is, we shall find nothing that can sug 
gest a scruple. For the mind, so far as it makes use of 
reason, is dependent, not on the supreme authorities, but 
on itself (Chap. II. Sec. 11). And so the true knowledge 
and the love of God cannot be subject to the dominion of 
any, nor yet can charity towards one s neighbour (Sec. 8). 
And if we further reflect, that the highest exercise of 
charity is that which aims at keeping peace and joining in 
unity, we shall not doubt that he does his duty, who helps 
everyone, so far as the commonwealth s laws, that is so far 
as unity and quiet allow. As for external rites, it is certain, 
that they can do no good or harm at all in respect of the 
true knowledge of God, and the love which necessarily re 
sults from it ; and so they ought not to be held of such 
importance, that it should be thought worth while on their 
account to disturb public peace and quiet. Moreover it is 
certain, that I am not a champion of religion by the law of 
nature, that is (Chap. II. Sec. 3), by the divine decree. 
For I have no authority, as once the disciples of Christ 
had, to cast out unclean spirits and work miracles ; which 



authority is yet so necessary to the propagating of religion 
in places whore it is forbidden, that without it one not only, 
as they say, wastes one s time 1 and trouble, but causes be- 
Bides very many inconveniences, whereof all ages have seen 
most mournful examples. Everyone therefore, wherever 
he may be, can worship God with true religion, and mind 
his own business, which is the duty of a private man. But 
the care of propagating religion should be left to Crod, o: 
the supreme authorities, upon whom alone tails 
of affairs of state. But I return to my subject. 

11 After explaining the right of supreme authentic 
over citizens and the duty of subjects, it remains to con 
sider the right of such authorities against the world at 
lar-e, which is now easily intelligible from what has been 
said For since (Sec. 2) the right of the supreme autho 
rities is nothing else but simple natural right, it follows 
that two dominions stand towards each other in the same 
relation as do two men in the state of nature, with tins 
exception, that a commonwealth can provide against being 
oppressed by another ; which a man in the state of nature 
cannot do, seeing that he is overcome daily by sleep, often 
by disease or mental infirmity, and in the end by old age, 
and is besides liable to other inconveniences, from which a 
commonwealth can secure itself. 

12 A commonwealth then is so far independent, as it 
can plan and provide against oppression by another 
(Chap II. Sees. 9, 15), and so far dependent 011 another 
commonwealth, as it fears that other s power or is hin 
dered by it from executing its own wishes, or lastly as it 
needs its help for its own preservation or increase (Chap 
II Sees 10, 15). For we cannot at all doubt, that if two 
commonwealths are willing to offer each other mutual help, 
both together are more powerful, and therefore have mor 
right, than either alone (Chap. II. Sec. 13) 

13 But this will be more clearly intelligible, it we 
reflect that two commonwealths are naturally enemies. 
For men in the state of nature are enemies (Chap 11. 
Sec 14) Those, then, who stand outside a commonwealUi, 
and retain their natural rights, continue enemies. Accord- 
1 Literally, " oil and trouble a common proverbial expression in 


ingly, if one commonwealth wishes to make war on another 
and employ extreme measures to make that other depen 
dent on itself, it may lawfully make the attempt, since it 
needs but the bare will of the commonwealth for war 
to be waged. But concerning peace it can decide nothing, 
save with the concurrence of another commonwealth s will. 
Whence it follows, that laws of war regard every common 
wealth by itself, but laws of peace regard not one, but at 
the least two commonwealths, which are therefore called 
" contracting powers." 

14. This " contract " remains so long unmoved as the 
motive for entering into it, that is, fear of hurt or hope of 
gain, subsists. But take away from either commonwealth 
this hope or fear, and it is left independent (Chap. II. 
Sec. 10), and the link, whereby the commonwealths were 
mutually bound, breaks of itself. And therefore every 
commonwealth has the right to break its contract, whenever 
it chooses, and cannot be said to act treacherously or per 
fidiously in breaking its word, as soon as the motive of 
hope or fear is removed. For every contracting party was 
on equal terms in this respect, that whichever could first 
free itself of fear should be independent, and make use of 
its independence after its own mind ; and, besides, no one 
makes a contract respecting the future, but on the hypo 
thesis of certain precedent circumstances. But when 
these circumstances change, the reason of policy applicable 
to the whole position changes with them; and therefore 
every one of the contracting commonwealths retains the 
right of consulting its own interest, and consequently en 
deavours, as far as possible, to be free from fear and 
thereby independent, and to prevent another from coming 
out of the contract with greater power. If then a common 
wealth complains that it has been deceived, it cannot pro 
perly blame the bad faith of another contracting common 
wealth, hut only its own folly in having entrusted its own 
welfare to another party, that was independent, and had for 
its highest law the welfare of its own dominion. 

15. To commonwealths, which have contracted a treaty 
of peace, it belongs to decide the questions, which may bo 
mooted about the terms or rules of peace, whereby thev 
have mutually bound themselves, inasmuch as laws of 


peace regard not one commonwealth, but the common 
wealths which contract taken together (Sec. 13). But if 
they cannot agree together about the conditions, they by 
that very fact return to a state of war. 

16. The more commonwealths there are, that have con 
tracted a joint treaty of peace, the less each of them by 
itself is an object of fear to the remainder, or the less it 
has the authority to make war. But it is so much the 
more bound to observe the conditions of peace ; that is 
(Sec. 13), the less independent, and the more bound to ac 
commodate itself to the general will of the contracting 

17. But the good faith, inculcated by sound reason and 
religion, is not hereby made void ; for neither reason nor 
Scripture teaches one to keep one s word in every case. 
For if I have promised a man, for instance, to keep safe a 
sum of money he has secretly deposited with me, I am not 
bound to keep my word, from the time that I know or 
believe the deposit to have been stolen, but I shall act 
more rightly in endeavouring to restore it to its owners. 
So likewise, if the supreme authority has promised another 
to do something, which subsequently occasion or reason 
shows or seems to show is contrary to the welfare of its 
subjects, it is surely bound to break its word. As then 
Scripture only teaches us to keep our word in general, and 
leaves to every individual s judgment the special cases of 
exception, it teaches nothing repugnant to what we have 
just proved. 

18. But that I may not have so often to break the 
thread of my discourse, and to resolve hereafter similar ob 
jections, I would have it known that all this demonstration 
of mine proceeds from the necessity of human nature, con 
sidered in what light you w r ill I mean, from the universal 
effort of all men after self-preservation, an effort inherent 
in all men, whether learned or unlearned. And therefore, 
however one considers men are led, whether by passion or 
by reason, it will be the same thing ; for the demonstration, 
as we have said, is of universal application. 




"PIIAT the right of the supreme authorities is limited by 
-L their power, we showed in the last chapter, and saw 
that the most important part of that right is, that they are, 
as it were, the mind of the dominion, whereby all ought to 
be guided; and accordingly, that such authorities alone 
have the right of deciding what JH good, evil, equitable, or 
iniquitous, that is, what must be done or left undone by 
the subjects severally or collectively. And, accordingly, we 
saw that they have the sole right of laying down laws, and 
of interpreting the same, whenever their meaning is dis 
puted, and of deciding whether a given case is in confor 
mity with or violation of the law (Chap. in. Sees. 3-5) ; 
and, lastly, of waging war, and of drawing up and offering 
propositions for peace, or of accepting such when offered 
(Chap. III. Sees. 12, 13). 

2. As all these functions, and also the means required 
to execute them, are matters which regard the whole body 
of the dominion, that is, are affairs of state, it follows, that 
affairs of state depend on the direction of him only, who 
holds supreme dominion. And hence it follows, that it is 
the right of the supreme authority alone to judge the deeds 
of every individual, and demand of him an account of the 
same ; to punish criminals, and decide questions of law 
between citizens, or appoint jurists acquainted with the 
existing laws, to administer these matters on its behalf ; 
and, further, to use and order all means to war and peace, 
as to found and fortify cities, levy soldiers, assign military 
posts, and order what it would have done, and, with a view 
to peace, to send and give audience to ambassadors ; and, 
finally, to levy the costs of all this. 

3. Since, then, it is the right of the supreme authority 


alone to handle public matters, or choose officials to do so, 
it follows, that that subject is a pretender to the dominion, 
who, without the supreme council s knowledge, enters upon 
any public matter, although he believe that his design will 
be to the best interest of the commonwealth. 

4. But it is often asked, whether the supreme authority 
is bound by laws, and, consequently, whether it can do 
wrong. Now as the words "law" and "wrong-doing * 
often refer not merely to the laws of a commonwealth, but 
also to the general rules which concern all natural things, 
and especially to the general rules of reason, we cannot, 
without qualification, say that the commonwealth is bound 
by no laws, or can do no wrong. For were the common 
wealth bound by no laws or rules, which removed, the 
commonwealth were no commonwealth, we should have to 
regard it not as a natural thing, but as a chimera, A 
commonwealth then does wrong, when it does, or suffers to 
be done, things which may be the cause of its own ruin ; 
and we can say that it then does wrong, in the sense in 
which philosophers or doctors say that nature does wrong ; 
and in this sense we can say, that a commonwealth does 
wrong, when it acts against the dictate of reason. For a 
commonwealth is most independent when it acts according 
to the dictate of reason (Chap. III. Sec. 7) ; so far, then, 
as it acts against reason, it fails itself, or does wrong. And 
we shall be able more easily to understand this if we re 
flect, that when we say, that a man can do what he will 
with his own, this authority must be limited not only by 
the power of the agent, but by the capacity of the object. 
If, for instance, I say that I can rightfully do what I will 
with this table, I do not certainly mean, that I have the 
right to make it eat grass. So, too, though we say, that 
men depend not on themselves, but on the commonwealth, 
we do not mean, that men lose their human nature and put 
on another ; nor yet that the commonwealth has the right 
to make men wish for this or that, or (what is just as im 
possible) regard with honour things which excite ridicule 
or disgust. But it is implied, that there are certain inter 
vening circumstances, which supposed, one likewise sup 
poses the reverence and fear of the subjects towards the 
commonwealth, and which abstracted, one makes abstrac- 


tion likewise of that fear and reverence, and therewith of 
the commonwealth itself. The commonwealth, then, to 
maintain its independence, is bound to preserve the causes 
of fear and reverence, otherwise it ceases to be a common 
wealth. For the person or persons that hold dominion, can 
no more combine with the keeping up of majesty the run 
ning with harlots drunk or naked about the streets, or the 
performances of a stage-player, or the open violation or 
contempt of laws passed by themselves, than they can 
combine existence with non-existence. But to proceed to 
slay and rob subjects, ravish maidens, and the like, turns 
fear into indignation and the civil state into a state of 

5. We see, then, in what sense we may say, that a 
commonwealth is bound by laws and can do wrong. But 
if by " law " we understand civil law, and by " wrong " 
that which, by civil law, is forbidden to be done, that 
is, if these words be taken in their proper sense, we cannot 
at all say, that a commonwealth is bound by laws, or can 
do wrong. For the maxims and motives of fear and 
reverence, which a commonwealth is bound to observe in 
its own interest, pertain not to civil jurisprudence, but to 
the law of nature, since (Sec. 4) they cannot be vindicated 
by the civil law, but by the law of war. And a common 
wealth is bound by them in no other sense than that in 
which, in the state of nature a man is bound to take heed, 
that he preserve his independence and be not his own enemy, 
lest he should destroy himself ; and in this taking heed 
lies not the subjection, but the liberty of human nature. 
But civil jurisprudence depends on the mere decree of the 
commonwealth, which is not bound to please any but itself, 
nor to hold anything to be good or bad, but what it judges 
to be such for itself. And, accordingly, it has not merely 
the right to avenge itself, or to lay down and interpret 
laws, but also to abolish the same, and to pardon any 
guilty person out of the fulness of its power. 

6. Contracts or laws, whereby the multitude transfers 
its right to one council or man, should without doubt be 
broken, when it is expedient for the general welfare to do 
so. But to decide this point, whether, that is, it be ex 
pedient for the general welfare to break them or not, is 


within the right of no private person, but of him only who 
holds dominion (Sec. 3) ; therefore of these laws he who 
holds dominion remains sole interpreter. Moreover, no 
private person can by right vindicate these laws, and so 
they do not really bind him who holds dominion. Not 
withstanding, if they are of such a nature that they cannot 
be broken, without at the same time weakening the 
commonwealth s strength, that is, without at the same time 
changing to indignation the common fear of most of the 
citizens, by this very fact the commonwealth is dissolved, 
and the contract comes to an end ; and therefore such con 
tract is vindicated not by the civil law, but by the law of 
war. And so he who holds dominion is not bound to ob 
serve the terms of the contract by any other cause than 
that, which bids a man in the state of nature to beware 
of being his own enemy, lest he should destroy himself, as 
we said in the last section. 




IN" Chap. II. Sec. 2, we showed, that man is then most 
A- independent, when he is most led by reason, and, in 
consequence (Chap. III. Sec. 7), that that commonwealth 
is most powerful and most independent, which is founded 
and guided by reason. But, as the best plan of living, so 
as to assure to the utmost self-preservation, is that which 
is framed according to the dictate of reason, therefore it 
follows, that that in every kind is best done, which a man or 
commonwealth does, so far as he or it is in the highest 
degree independent. For it is one thing to till a field by 
right, and another to till it in the best way. One thing, I 
say, to defend or preserve one s self, and to pass judgment 
by right, and another to defend or preserve one s self in the 
best way, and to pass the best judgment; and, conse 
quently, it is one thing to have dominion and care of 
affairs of state by right, and another to exercise dominion 
and direct affairs of state in the best way. And so, as we 
have treated of the right of every commonwealth in general, 
it is time to treat of the best state of every dominion. 

2. Now the quality of the state of any dominion is easily 
perceived from the end of the civil state, which end is 
nothing else but peace and security of life. And therefore 
that dominion is the best, where men pass their lives in 
unity, and the laws are kept unbroken. For it is certain, 
that seditions, wars, and contempt or breach of the laws 
are ^not so much to be imputed to the wickedness of the 
subjects, as to the bad state of a dominion. For men are 
not born fit for citizenship, but must be made so. Besides, 
men s natural passions are everywhere the same ; and if 
wickedness more prevails, and more offences are committed 
in one commonwealth than in another, it is certain that the 


former has not enough pursued the end of unity, nor 
framed its laws with sufficient forethought; and that, 
therefore, it has failed in making quite good its right as a 
commonwealth. For a civil state, which has not done away 
with the causes of seditions, where war is a perpetual 
object of fear, and where, lastly, the laws are often broken, 
differs but little from the mere state of nature, in which 
everyone lives after his own mind at the great risk of his 

3. But as the vices and inordinate licence and contumacy 
of subjects must be imputed to the commonwealth, so, on 
the other hand, their virtue and constant obedience to the 
laws are to be ascribed in the main to the virtue and per 
fect right of the commonwealth, as is clear from Chap. IT. 
Sec. 15. And so it is deservedly reckoned to Hannibal as an 
extraordinary virtue, that in his army there never arose a 
sedition. 1 

4. Of a commonwealth, whose subjects are but hindered 
by terror from taking arms, it should rather be said, that it 
is free from war, than that it has peace. For peace is not 
mere absence of war, but is a virtue that springs from force 
of character : for obedience (Chap. II. Sec. 19) is the con 
stant will to execute what, by the general decree of the 
commonwealth, ought to be done. Besides that common 
wealth, whose peace depends on the sluggishness of its 
subjects, that are led about like sheep, to learn but 
slavery, may more properly be called a desert than a 

5. When, then, we call that dominion best, where men 
pass their lives in unity, I understand a human life, de 
nned not by mere circulation of the blood, and other quali 
ties common to all animals, but above all by reason, the 
true excellence and life of the mind. 

6. But be it remarked that, by the dominion which I 
have said is established for this end, I intend that which 
has been established by a free multitude, not that which is 
acquired over a multitude by right of war. For a free 
multitude is guided more by hope than fear ; a conquered 
one, more by fear than hope : inasmuch as the former aims 

1 Justin, Histories, xxxii. iv. 12. 


at making use of life, the latter but at escaping death. 
The former, I say, aims at living for its own ends, the 
latter is forced to belong to the conqueror ; and so we say 
that this is enslaved, but that free. And, therefore, the 
end of a dominion, which one gets by right of war, is to be 
master, and have rather slaves than subjects. And although 
between the dominion created by a free multitude, and that 
gained by right of war, if we regard generally the right of 
each, we can make no essential distinction ; yet their ends, 
as we have already shown, and further the means to the 
preservation of each are very different. 

7. But what means a prince, whose sole motive is lust of 
mastery, should use to establish and maintain his dominion, 
the most ingenious Machiavelli has set forth at large, 1 but 
with what design one can hardly be sure. If, however, he 
had some good design, as one should believe of a learned 
man, it seems to have been to show, with how little fore 
sight many attempt to remove a tyrant, though thereby the 
causes which make the prince a tyrant can in no wise be 
removed, but, on the contrary, are so much the more 
established, as the prince is given more cause to fear, which 
happens when the multitude has made an example of its 
prince, and glories in the parricide as in a thing well done. 
Moreover, he perhaps wished to show how cautious a free 
multitude should be of entrusting its welfare absolutely to 
one man, who, unless in his vanity he thinks he can please 
everybody, must be in daily fear of plots, and so is forced 
to look chiefly after his own interest, and, as for the multi 
tude, rather to plot against it than consult its good. And 
I am the more led to this opinion concerning that most far- 
seeing man, because it is known that he was favourable to 
liberty, for the maintenance of which he has besides given 
the most wholesome advice. 

1 In liis book called " II Principe," or " The Prince." 




TNASMUCH as men are led, as we have said, more by 
- passion than reason, it follows, that a multitude comes 
together, and wishes to be guided, as it were, by one mind, 
not at the suggestion of reason, but of some common pas 
sion that is (Chap. III. Sec. 9), common hope, or fear, or 
the desire of avenging some common hurt. But since fear 
of solitude exists in all men, because no one in solitude is 
strong enough to defend himself, and procure the necessa 
ries of life, it follows that men naturally aspire to the civil 
state ; nor can it happen that men should ever utterly 
dissolve it. 

2. Accordingly, from the quarrels and seditions which 
are often stirred up in a commonwealth, it never results 
that the citizens dissolve it, as often happens in the case of 
other associations ; but only that they change its form into 
some other that is, of course, if the disputes cannot be 
settled, and the features of the commonwealth at the same 
time preserved. Wherefore, by means necessary to preserve 
a dominion, I intend such things as are necessary to preserve 
the existing form of the dominion, without any notable 

3. But if human nature were so constituted, that men 
most desired what is most useful, no art would be needed 
to produce unity and confidence. But, as it is admittedly 
far otherwise with human nature, a dominion must of 
necessity be so ordered, that all, governing and governed 
alike, whether they will or no, shall do what makes for the 
general welfare ; that is, that all, whether of their own 
impulse, or by force or necessity, shall be compelled to 
live according to the dictate of reason. And this is the 

3ECS. 1-5.] OF MONARCHY. 317 

case, if the affairs of the dominion be so managed, that 
nothing which affects the general welfare is entirely en 
trusted to the good faith of any one. For no man is so 
watchful, that he never falls asleep ; and no man ever had 
a character so vigorous and honest, but he sometimes, and 
that just when strength of character was most wanted, was 
diverted from his purpose and let himself be overcome. 
And it is surely folly to require of another what one can 
never obtain from one s self ; I mean, that he should be more 
watchful for another s interest than his own, that he should 
be free from avarice, envy, and ambition, and so on ; 
especially when he is one, who is subject daily to the 
strongest temptations of every passion. 

4. But, on the other hand, experience is thought to 
teach, that it makes for peace and concord, to confer the 
whole authority upon one man. For no dominion has 
stood so long without any notable change, as that of the 
Turks, and on the other hand there were none so little 
lasting, as those, which were popular or democratic, nor 
any in which so many seditions arose. Yet if slavery, 
barbarism, and desolation are to be called peace, men can 
have no worse misfortune. No doubt there are usually 
more and sharper quarrels between parents and children, 
than between masters and slaves ; yet it advances not the 
art of housekeeping, to change a father s right into a right 
of property, and count children but as slaves. Slavery 
then, not peace, is furthered by handing over to one man 
the whole authority. For peace, as we said before, con 
sists not in mere absence of war, but in a union or agree 
ment of minds, 

5. And in fact they are much mistaken, who suppose 
that one man can by himself hold the supreme right of a 
commonwealth. For the only limit of right, as we showed 
(Chap. II.), is power. But the power of one man is very 
inadequate to support so great a load. And hence it 
arises, that the man, whom the multitude has chosen 
king, looks out for himself generals, or counsellors, or 
friends, to whom he entrusts his own and the common 
welfare ; so that the dominion, which is thought to be a 
perfect monarchy, is in actual working an aristocracy, not, 
indeed, an open but a hidden one, and therefore the worst 


of all. Besides which, a king, who is a "boy, or ill, or over 
come by age, is but king on sufferance ; and those in this 
case have the supreme authority, who administer the 
highest business of the dominion, or are near the king s 
person; not to mention, that a lascivious king often 
manages everything at the caprice of this or that mistress 
or minion. " I had heard," says Orsines, " that women 
once reigned in Asia, but for a eunuch to reign is some 
thing new." l 

6. It is also certain, that a commonwealth is always in 
greater danger from its citizens than from its enemies ; 
tor the good are few. Whence it follows, that he, upon 
whom the whole right of the dominion has been conferred, 
will always be more afraid of citizens than of enemies, and 
therefore will look to his own safety, and not try to consult 
his subjects interests, but to plot against them, especially 
against those who are renowned for learning, or have in 
fluence through wealth. 

7. It must besides be added, that kings fear their sons 
also more than they love them, and so much the more as 
the latter are skilled in the arts of war and peace, and 
endeared to the subjects by their virtues. Whence it 
comes, that kings try so to educate their sons, that they 
may have no reason to fear them. Wherein ministers very 
readily obey the king, and will be at the utmost pains, that 
the successor ma} r be an inexperienced king, whom they 
can hold tightly in hand. 

8. From all which it follows, that the more absolutely 
the commonwealth s right is transferred to the king, the 
less independent he is, and the more unhappy is the con 
dition of his subjects. And so, that a monarchical do- 
minion may be duly established, it is necessary to lay 
solid foundations, to build it on ; from which may result 
to the monarch safety, and to the multitude peace ; and, 
therefore, to lay them in such a way, that the monarch 
mav then be most independent, when, he most consults tin; 
multitude s welfare. But I will first briefly state, what 
these foundations of a monarchical dominion are, and after 
wards prove them in order. 

1 Cuftius, x. 1. 

BECS. 5-12.] OF MONARCHY. 819 

9. One or more cities must be founded and fortified, 
whose citizens, whether they live within the walls, or out 
side for purposes of agriculture, are all to enjoy the same 
right in the commonwealth ; yet on this condition, that 
every city provide an ascertained number of citizens for its 
own and the general defence. But a city, which cannot 
supply this, must be held in subjection on other terms. 

10. The militia must be formed out of citizens alone, 
none being exempt, and of no others. And, therefore, all 
are to be bound to have arms, and no one to be admitted 
into the number of the citizens, till he has learnt his drill, 
and promised to practise it at stated times in the year. 
Next, the militia of each clan is to be divided into bat 
talions and regiments, and no captain of a battalion chosen, 
that is not acquainted with military engineering. More 
over, though the commanders of battalions and regiments 
are to be chosen for life, yet the commander of the militia 
of a whole clan is to be chosen only in time of war, to hold 
command for a year at most, without power of being con 
tinued or afterwards re-appointed. And these last are to 
be selected out of the king s counsellors, of whom we shall 
speak in the fifteenth and following sections, or out of 
those who have filled the post of counsellor. 

11. The townsmen and countrymen of every city, 
that is, the whole of the citizens, are to be divided into 
clans, distinguished by some name and badge, and all 
persons born of any of these clans are to be received into 
the number of citizens, and their names inscribed on the 
roll of their clan, as soon as they have reached the age, 
when they can carry arms and know their duty ; with the 
exception of those, who are infamous from some crime, or 
dumb, or mad, or menials supporting life by some servile 

12. The fields, and the whole soil, and, if it can be 
managed, the houses should be public property, that is, the 
property of him, who holds the right of the commonwealth : 
and let him let them at a yearly rent to the citizens, whether 
townsmen or countrymen, and with this exception let them 
all be free or exempt from every kind of taxation in time of 
peace. And of this rent a part is to be applied to the de 
fences of the state, a part to the kind s private use. For 


it is necessary in time of peace to fortify cities against 
war, and also to have ready ships and other munitions of 

13. After the selection of the king from one of the clans, 
none are to be held noble, but his descendants, who are 
therefore to be distinguished by royal insignia from their 
own and the other clans. 

14. Those male nobles, who are the reigning king s col 
laterals, and stand to him in the third or fourth degree of 
consanguinity, must not marry, and any children they may 
have had, are to be accounted bastards, and unworthy of 
any dignity, nor may they be recognized as heirs to their 
parents, whose goods must revert to the king. 

15. Moreover the king s counsellors, who are next to him 
in dignity, must be numerous, and chosen out of the 
citizens only ; that is (supposing there to be no more than 
six hundred clans) from every clan three or four or five, 
who will form together one section of this council; and not 
for life, but for three, four, or five years, so that every 
year a third, fourth, or fifth part may be replaced by selec 
tion, in which selection it must be observed as a first con 
dition, that out of every clan at least one counsellor chosen 
be a jurist. 

16. The selection must be made by the king himself, 
who should fix a time of year for the choice of fresh coun 
sellors. Each clan must then submit to the king the 
names of all its citizens, who have reached their fiftieth 
year, and have been duly put forward as candidates for this 
office, and out of these the king will choose whom he 
pleases. But in that year, when the jurist of any clan is 
to be replaced, only the names of jurists are to be sub 
mitted to the king. Those who have filled this office of 
counsellor for the appointed time, are not to be continued 
therein, nor to be replaced on the list of candidates for five 
years or more. But the reason why one is to be chosen 
every year out of every clan is, that the council may not 
be composed alternately of untried novices, and of veterans 
versed in affairs, which must necessarily be the case, were 
all to retire at once, and new men to succeed them. But if 
every year one be chosen out of every family, then only a 
fifth, fourth, or at most a third part of the council will con- 

SECS. 12-21.] OF MONARCHY. 321 

sist of novices. Further, if the king be prevented by other 
business, or for any other reason, from being able to spare 
time for this choice, then let the counsellors themselves 
choose others for a time, until the king either chooses 
different ones, or confirms the choice of the council. 

17. Let the primary function of this council be to defend 
the fundamental laws of the dominion, and to give advice 
about administration, that the king may know, what for 
the public good ought to be decreed : and that on the 
understanding, that the king may not decide in any matter, 
without first hearing the opinion of this council. But if, as 
will generally happen, the council is not of one mind, but 
is divided in opinion, even after discussing the same sub 
ject two or three times, there must be no further delay, but 
the different opinions are to be submitted to the king, as 
in the twenty-fifth section of this chapter we shall show. 

18. Let it be also the duty of this council to publish the 
king s orders or decrees, and to see to the execution of any 
decree concerning affairs of state, and to supervise the ad 
ministration of the whole dominion, as the king s deputies. 

19. The citizens should have no access to the king, save 
through this council, to which are to be handed all de 
mands or petitions, that they may be presented to the 
king. Nor should the envoys of other commonwealths be 
allowed to obtain permission to address the king, but 
through the council. Letters, too, sent from elsewhere to 
the king, must be handed to him by the council. And in 
general the king is to be accounted as the mind of the 
commonwealth, but the council as the senses outside the 
mind, or the commonwealth s body, through whose inter 
vention the mind understands the state of the common 
wealth, and acts as it judges best for itself. 

20. The care of the education of the king s sons should 
also fall on this council, and the guardianship, where a 
king has died, leaving as his successor an infant or boy. 
Yet lest meanwhile the council should be left without a 
king, one of the elder nobles of the commonwealth should 
be chosen to fill the king s place, till the legitimate heir has 
reached the age at which he can support the weight of 

21. Let the candidates for election to this council be such 


as know the system of government, and the foundations, 
and state or condition of the commonwealth, whose subjects 
they are. But he that would fill the place of a jurist must, 
besides the government and condition of the > common- 
wealth, whose subject he is, be likewise acquainted with 
those of the other commonwealths, with which it has any 
intercourse. But none are to be placed upon the list of 
candidates, unless they have reached their fiftieth year 
without being convicted of crime. 

22. In this council no decision is to be taken about the 
affairs of the dominion, but in the presence of all the 
members. But if anyone be unable through illness or 
other cause to attend, he must send in his stead one of the 
same clan, who has filled the office of counsellor or been put 
011 the list of candidates. Which if he neglect to do, and 
the council through his absence be forced to adjourn any 
matter, let him be fined a considerable sum. But this 
must be understood to mean, when the question is of a 
matter affecting the whole dominion, as of peace or war, of 
abrogating or establishing a law, of trade, c. But if the 
question be one that affects only a particular city or two, 
ns nl .out petitions, &c., it will suffice that a majority of the 
council attend. 

lf.1 To maintain a perfect equality between the clans, 
and a regular order in sitting, making proposals, and 
speaking every clan is to take in turn the presidency at 
the sittings, a different clan at every sitting, and that 
which was first at one sitting is to be last at the next. But 
among members of the same clan, let precedence go by 
priority of election. 

24. This council should be summoned at least four times 
a year, to demand of the ministers account of their ad 
ministration of the dominion, to ascertain the state of 
affairs, and soe if anything else needs deciding. For it 
seems impossible for so large a number of citizens to have 
constant leisure for public business. But as in the mean 
time public business must none the less be carried on, 
therefore fifty or more are to be chosen out of this council 
to supply its place after its dismissal ; and these should 
meet daily in a chamber next the king s, and so have daily 
care of the treasury, the cities, the fortifications, the edu- 

SEC?. 21-26.] OF MONARCHY. 323 

cation of the king s son, and in general of all those duties 
of the great council, which we have just enumerated, ex 
cept that they cannot take counsel about new matters, con 
cerning which no decision has been taken. 

25. On the meeting of the council, before anything is 
proposed in it, let five, six, or more jurists of the clans, 
which stand first in order of place at that session, attend on 
the king, to deliver to him petitions or letters, if they have 
any, to declare to him the state of affairs, and, lastly, to 
understand from him what he bids them propose in his 
council ; and when they have heard this, let them return 
to the council, and let the first in precedence open the 
matter of debate. But, in matters which seem to any of 
them to be of some moment, let not the votes be taken at 
once, but let the voting be adjourned to such a date as the 
urgency of the matter allows. When, then, the council 
stands adjourned till the appointed time, the counsellors of 
every clan will meanwhile be able to debate the mattei 
separately, and, if they think it of great moment, to consult 
others that have been counsellors, or are candidates for the 
council. And if within the appointed time the counsellors 
of any clan cannot agree among themselves, that clan shall 
lose its vote, for every clan can give but one vote. But, 
otherwise, let the jurist of the clan lay before the council 
the opinion they have decided to be best; and so with 
the rest. And if the majority of the council think fit, after 
hearing the grounds of every opinion, to consider the 
matter again, let the council be again adjourned to a date, 
a.t which every clan shall pronounce its final opinion ; and 
then, at last, before the entire council, let the votes be 
taken, and that opinion be invalidated which has not at 
least a hundred votes. But let the other opinions be sub 
mitted to the king by all the jurists present at the council, 
that, after hearing every party s arguments, he may select 
which opinion he pleases. And then let the jurists leave 
him, and return to the council ; and there let all await the 
king at the time fixed by himself, that all may hear which 
opinion of those proposed he thinks fit to adopt, and what 
he decides should be done. 

26. For the administration of justice, another council is 
to be formed of jurists, whose business should be to decide 


suits, and punish criminals, but so that all the judgments 
they deliver be tested by those who are for the time 
members of the great council that is, as to their having 
been delivered according to the due process of justice, and 
without partiality. But if the losing party can prove, that 
any judge has been bribed by the adversary, or that there 
is some mutual cause of friendship between the judge and 
the adversary, or of hatred between the judge and himself, 
or, lastly, that the usual process of justice has not been 
observed, let such party be restored to his original position. 
But this would, perhaps, not be observed by such as love 
to convict the accused in a criminal case, rather by torture 
than proofs. But, for all that, I can conceive on this point 
of no other process of justice than the above, that befits the 
best system of governing a commonwealth. 

27. Of these judges, there should be a large and odd 
number for instance, sixty-one, or at least forty-one, and 
not more than one is to be chosen of one clan, and that 
not for life, but every year a certain proportion are to retire, 
and lie replaced by as many others out of different clans, 
that have reached their fortieth year. 

28. In this council, let no judgment bo pronounced save 
in the presence of all the judges. But it any judge, from 
disease or other cause, shall for a long time be unable to 
attend the council, let another be chosen for that time to 
iill his place. But in giving their votes, thev are all not to 
utter their opinions aloud, but to signify them by ballot. 

21). Let those who supply others places in this and the 
first-mentioned council tirst be paid out of the goods of 
those whom they have condemned to death, and also out of 
the tines of which any are mulcted. Next, after every 
judgment they pronounce in a civil suit, let them receive a 
certain proportion of the whole sum at stake for the benetit 
of both councils. 

i>0. Let there lie in everv city other subordinate councils, 
whose members likewise must not be chosen for life, but 
must IK; partially renewed every year, out of the clans 
who live there only. But there is no need to pursue this 

31. No military pay is to be granted in time of peace; 
but, in time of war, military pay is to be allowed to those 



only, who support their lives by daily labour. But the 
commanders and other officers of the battalions are to 
expect no other advantage from war but the spoil of the 

32. If a foreigner takes to wife the daughter of a citizen, 
his children are to be counted citizens, and put on the roll 
of their mother s clan. But those who are born and bred 
within the dominion of foreign parents should be allowed 
to purchase at a fixed price the right of citizenship from 
the captains of thousands of any clan, and to be enrolled in 
that clan. For no harm can arise thence to the dominion, 
even though the captains of thousands, for a bribe, admit 
a foreigner into the number of their citizens for less than 
the fixed price ; but, on the contrary, means should be de 
vised for more easily increasing the number of citizens, and 
producing a large confluence of men. As for those who 
are not enrolled as citizens, it is but fair that, at least in 
war-time, they should pay for their exemption from service 
by some forced labour or tax. 

33. The envoys to be sent in time of peace to other 
commonwealths must be chosen out of the nobles only, and 
their expenses met by the state treasury, and not the kind s 
privy purse. 

34. Those that attend the court, and are the king s ser 
vants, and are paid out of his privy purse, must be excluded 
from every appointment and office in the commonwealth. 
I say expressly, " and are paid out of the king s privy 
purse," to except the body-guard. For there should be no 
other body-guard, but the citizens of the king s city, who 
should take turns to keep guard at court before the kind s 

35. War is only to be made for the sake of peace, so 
that, at its end, one may be rid of arms. And so, when 
cities have been taken by right of war, and terms of peace 
are to be made after the enemies are subdued, the captured 
cities must not be garrisoned and kept; but either the 
enemy, on accepting the terms of peace, should be allowed 
to redeem them at a price, or, if by following that policy, 
there would, by reason of the danger of the position, remain 
a constant lurking anxiety, they must be utterly destroyed, 
and the inhabitants removed elsewhere. 


36. The king must not he allowed to contract a foreign 
marriage, but only to take to wife one of his kindred, or of 
the citizens; yet, on condition that, if he marries a citizen, 
her near relations become incapable of holding oilice in the 
common weath. 

37. The dominion must be indivisible. And so, if the king 
leaves more than one child, let the eldest one succeed ; but 
by no means be it allowed to divide the dominion between 
them, or to give it undivided to all or several of them, 
much less to give a part of it as a daughter s dowry. For 
that daughters should be admitted to the inheritance of a 
dominion is in no wise to be allowed. 

38. If the king die leaving no male issue, let the next to 
him in blood be held the heir to the dominion, unless he 
chance to have married a foreign wife, whom he will not 
put away. 

39. As for the citizens, it is manifest (Chap. III. Sec. 5) 
that every one of them ought to obey all the commands of 
the king, and the decrees published by the great council, 
although he believe them to be most absurd, and other 
wise he may rightfully be forced to obey. And these are 
the foundations of a monarchical dominion, on which it 
must be built, it it is to be stable, as we shall show in the 
next chapter. 

40. As for religion, no temples whatever ought to be 
built at the public expense; nor ought laws to be esta 
blished about opinions, unless they be seditious and over 
throw the foundations of the commonwealth. And so let 
such as are allowed the public exercise of their religion 
build a temple at their own expense. But the king may 
have in his palace a chapel of his own, that he ma) practise 
(lie religion to which he belongs. 

SEC. 1.] OF MONARCHY. 827 



A FTEE. explaining the foundations of a monarchical 
** dominion, I have taken in hand to prove here in order 
the fitness of such foundations. And to this end the first 
point to be noted is, that it is in no way repugnant to 
experience, for laws to be so firmly fixed, that not the 
king himself can abolish them. For though the Persians 
worshipped their kings as gods, yet had not the kings 
themselves authority to revoke laws once established, as 
appears from Daniel, 1 and nowhere, as far as I know, is 
a monarch chosen absolutely without any conditions ex 
pressed. Nor yet is it repugnant to reason or the absolute 
obedience due to a king. For the foundations of the do 
minion are to be considered as eternal decrees of the king, 
so that his ministers entirely obey him in refusing to 
execute his orders, when he commands anything contrary 
to the same. Which we can make plain by the example of 
Ulysses. 2 For his comrades were executing his own order, 
when they would not untie him, when he was bound to the 
mast and captivated by the Sirens song, although he gave 
them manifold orders to do so, and that with threats. And 
it is ascribed to his forethought, that he afterwards thanked 
his comrades for obeying him according to his first in 
tention. And, after this example of Ulysses, kings often 
instruct judges, to administer justice without respect of 
persons, not even of the king himself, if by some singular 
accident he order anything contrary to established law. 
For kings are not gods, but men, who are often led captive 
by the Sirens song. If then everything depended on the 
inconstant will of one man, nothing would be fixed. And 
so, that a monarchical dominion may be stable, it must be 

1 Daniel vi. 15. Horn. "Odys.," xii. 156-200. 


ordered, so that everything be done by the king s decree 
only, that is, so that every law be an explicit will of the 
king, but not every will of the king a law ; as to which 
see Chap. VI. Sects. 3, 5, 6. 

2. It must next be observed, that in laying foundations 
it is very necessary to study the human passions : and it is 
Tjot enough to have shown, what ought to be done, but it 
ought, above all, to be shown how it can be effected, that 
men, whether led by passion or reason, should yet keep 
the laws firm and unbroken. For if the constitution of 
the dominion, or the public liberty depends only on the 
weak assistance of the laws, not only will the citizens have 
no security for its maintenance (as we showed in the third 
section of the last chapter), but it will even turn to their 
ruin. For this is certain, that no condition of a common 
wealth is more wretched than that of the best, when it be 
gins to totter, unless at one blow it falls with a rush into 
slavery, which seems to be quite impossible. And, there 
fore, it would be far better for the subjects to transfer 
their rights absolutely to one man, than to bargain for un 
ascertained and empty, that is unmeaning, terms of liberty, 
and so prepare for their posterity a way to the most cruel 
servitude. But if I succeed in showing that the founda 
tion of monarchical dominion, which I stated in the last 
chapter, are firm and cannot be plucked up, without the 
indignation of the larger part of an armed multitude, and 
that from them follow peace and security for king and 
multitude, and if I deduce this from general human nature, 
no one will be able to doubt, that these foundations are the 
best and the true ones (Chap. III. Sec. 9, and Chap. VI. 
Sects. 3, 8). But that such is their nature, I will show as 
briefly as possible. 

3. That the duty of him, who holds the dominion, is 
always to know its state and condition, to watch over the 
common welfare of all, and to execute whatever is to the 
interest of the majority of the subjects, is admitted by all. 
But as one person alone is unable to examine into every 
thing, and cannot always have his mind ready and turn it 
to meditation, and is often hindered by disease, or old age, 
or other causes, from having leisure for public business ; 
therefore it is necessary that the monarch have counsellors 

SECS. 1-5.] OF MONARCHY. 329 

to know the state of affairs, and help the king with their 
advice, and frequently supply his place ; and that so it 
come to pass, that the dominion or commonwealth may 
continue always in one and the same mind. 

4. But as human nature is so constituted, that everyone 
seeks with the utmost passion his own advantage, and 
judges those laws to be most equitable, which he thinks 
necessary to preserve and increase his substance, and 
defends another s cause so far only as he thinks he is 
thereby establishing his own; it follows hence, that the 
counsellors chosen must be such, that their private aft airs 
and their own interests depend on the general welfare and 
peace of all. And so it is evident, that if from every sort 
or class of citizens a certain number be chosen, what has 
most votes in such a council will be to the interest of 
the greater part of the subjects. And though this council, 
because it is composed of so large a number of citizens, 
must of necessity be attended by many of very simple 
intellect, yet this is certain, that everyone is pretty clever 
and sagacious in business which he has long and eagerly 
practised. And, therefore, if none be chosen but such as 
have till their fiftieth year practised their own business 
without disgrace, they will be fit enough to give their 
advice about their own affairs, especially "if, in matters of 
considerable importance, a time be allowed for considera 
tion. Besides, it is far from being the fact, that a council 
composed of a few is not frequented by this kind of men. 
For, on the contrary, its greatest part must consist of such, 
since everyone, in that case, tries hard to have dullards for 
colleagues, that they may hang on his words, for which 
there is no opportunity in large councils. 

5. Furthermore, it is certain, that everyone would rather 
rule than be ruled. " For no one of his own will yields 
up dominion to another," as Sallust has it in his first 
speech to Caesar. 1 And, therefore, it is clear, that a whole 
multitude will never transfer its right to a few or to one, 
if it can come to an agreement with itself, without proceed 
ing from the controversies, winch generally arise in large 
councils, to seditions. And so the multitude does not, if 

1 Chap. I. See. 4 of the speech, or rather letter, which is not now 
admitted to be a genuine work of Sallust. 


it is free, transfer to the king anything but that, which it 
cannot itself have absolutely within its authority, namely, 
the ending of controversies and the using despatch in 
decisions. For as to the case which often arises, where a 
king is chosen on account of war, that is, because war is 
much more happily conducted by kings, it is manifest 
folly, I say, that men should choose slavery in time of 
peace for the sake of better fortune in war ; if, indeed, 
peace can be conceived of in a dominion, where merely for 
Jie sake of war the highest authority is transferred to one 
man, who is, therefore, best able to show his worth and the 
importance to everyone of his single self in time of war; 
whereas, on the contrary, democracy has this advantage, 
that its excellence is greater in peace than in war. How 
ever, for whatever reason a king is chosen, he cannot by 
himself, as we said just now, know what will be to the 
interest of the dominion: but for this purpose, as we 
showed in the last section, will need many citizens for his 
counsellors. And as we cannot at all suppose, that any 
opinion can be conceived about a matter proposed for dis 
cussion, which can have escaped the notice of so large a 
number of men, it follows, that no opinion can be conceived 
tending to the people s welfare, besides all the opinions of 
this council, which are submitted to the king. And so, 
since the people s welfare is the highest law, or the king s 
utmost right, it follows, that the king s utmost right is but 
to choose one of the opinions offered by the council, not to 
decree anything, or offer any opinion contrary to the mind 
of all the council at once (Chap. VI. Sec. 25). But if all 
the opinions offered in the council were to be submitted to 
the king, then it might happen that the king would always 
favour the small cities, which have the fewest votes. For 
though by the constitution of the council it be ordained, 
that the opinions should be submitted to the king without 
mention of their supporters, yet they will never be able to 
take such good care, but that some opinion will get 
divulged. And, therefore, it must of necessity be provided, 
that that opinion, which has not gained at least a hundred 
votes, shall be held void; and this law the larger cities 
will be sure to defend with all their might. 

6. And here, did I not study brevity, I would show 

SECS. 5-10.] OF MONARCHY. 381 

other advantages of this council; yet one, which seems of 
the greatest importance, I will allege. I mean, that there 
can be given no greater inducement to virtue, than this 
general hope of the highest honour. For by ambition are 
we all most led, as in our Ethics we showed to be the case. 1 

7. But it cannot be doubted that the majority of this 
council will never be minded to wage war, but rathci 
always pursue and love peace. For besides that war will 
always cause them fear of losing their property and liberty, 
it is to be added, that war requires fresh expenditure, which 
they must meet, and also that their own children and re 
latives, though intent on their domestic cares, will be forced 
to turn their attention to war and go a- soldiering, whence 
they will never bring back anything but unpaid-for scars. 
For, as we said (Chap. VI. Sec. 31), no pay is to be given 
to the militia, and (Chap. VI. Sec. 10) it is to be formed 
out of citizens only and no others. 

8. There is another accession to the cause of peace and 
concord, which is also of great weight : I mean, that no 
citizen can have immovable property (Chap. VI. Sec. 12). 
Hence all will have nearly an equal risk in war. For all 
will be obliged, for the sake of gain, to practise trade, or 
lend money to one another, if, as formerly by the Athe 
nians, a law be passed, forbidding to lend money at inte 
rest to any but inhabitants ; and thus they will be engaged 
in business, which either is mutually involved, one man s 
with another s, or needs the same means for its furtherance. 
And thus the greatest part of this council will generally 
have one and the same mind about their common affairs 
and the arts of peace. For, as we said (Sec. 4), every man 
defends another s cause, so far as he thinks thereby to 
establish his own. 

9. It cannot be doubted, that it will never occur to any 
one to corrupt this council with bribes. For were any man 
to draw over to his side some one or two out of so great a 
number of men, he would gain nothing. For, as we said, the 
opinion, which does not gain at least a hundred votes, is void. 

10. We shall also easily see, that, once this council is 
established its members cannot be reduced to a less num- 

1 Ethics, iii, 29, &c. 


Lor, if we consider the common passions of mankind. For 
all are guided mostly by ambition, and there is no man 
who lives in health but hopes to attain extreme old age. If 
then we calculate the number of those who actually reach 
their fiftieth or sixtieth year, and further take into account 
the number that are every year chosen of this great council, 
we shall see, that there can hardly be a man of those who 
bear arms, but is under the influence of a great hope of 
attaining this dignity. And so they will all, to the best of 
their power, defend this law of the council. For be it 
noted, that corruption, unless it creep in gradually, is easily 
prevented. But as it can be more easily supposed, and 
would be less invidious, that a less number should be 
chosen out of every clan, than that a less number should be 
chosen out of a few clans, or that one or two clans should 
be altogether excluded ; therefore (Chap. VI. Sec. 15) the 
number of counsellors cannot be reduced, unless a third, 
fourth, or fifth part be removed simultaneously, which 
change is a very great one, and therefore quite repugnant 
to common practice. Nor need one be afraid of delay or 
negligence in choosing, because this is remedied by the 
council itself. See Chap. VI. Sec. 16. 

11. The king, then, whether he is induced by fear of the 
multitude, or aims at binding to himself the majority of an 
armed multitude, or is guided by a generous spirit, a wish 
that is, to consult the public interest, will always confirm 
that opinion, which has gained most votes, that is (Sec. 5), 1 
which is to the interest of the greater part of the dominion ; 
and will study to reconcile the divergent opinions referred 
to him, if it can be done, that he may attach all to himself 
(in which he will exert all his powers), and that alike in 
peace and war they may find out, what an advantage his 
single self is to them. And thus he will then be most in 
dependent, and most in posscssioK of dominion, when he 
most consults the general welfare of the multitude. 

1*2. For the king by himself cannot restrain all by fear. 
But his power, as we have said, rests upon the number of 

1 This si-ems to be a mistake for Sec. 4, " Id n.:>jri stibditorum pnrti 
utile erit. quod in lux; eoncilio jilurirav habuerit suffrngia." " What 
has most votes in such a council, will be to the interest of the greater 
part of the subjects/ 

SECS. 10-14.] OF MONARCHY. 333 

his soldiers, and especially on their valour and faith, which 
will always remain so long enduring between men, as with 
them is joined need, be that need honourable or disgrace- 
till. And this is why kings usually are fonder of exciting 
than restraining their soldiery, and shut their eyes more to 
their vices than to their virtues, and generally, to hold 
under the best of them, seek out, distinguish, and assist 
with money or favour the idle, and those who have ruined 
themselves by debauchery, and shake hands with them 
and throw them kisses, and for the sake of mastery stoop 
to every servile action. In order therefore that the citizens 
may be distinguished by the king before all others, and as 
tar as the civil state and equity permit, may remain inde 
pendent, it is necessary that the militia should consist of 
citizens only, and that citizens should be his counsellors 
and 011 the contrary citizens are altogether subdued and 
are laying the foundations of eternal war, from the moment 
that they suffer mercenaries to be levied, whose trade is 
war and who have most power in strifes and seditions. 

13. That the king s counsellors ought not to be elected 
for life, but for three, four, or five years, is clear as well 
from the tenth, as from what we said in the ninth section 
ot this chapter. For if they were chosen for life, not only 
could the greatest part of the citizens conceive hardly any 
hope of obtaining this honour, and thus there would" arise 
a great inequality, and thence envy, and constant murmurs, 
and at last seditions, which, no doubt, would be welcome to 
kings greedy of mastery : but also the counsellors, Lomo 
nd of the fear of their successors, would assume a great 
licence in all respects, which the king would be far from 
opposing. For the more the citizens hate them, the more 
they will cling to the king, and be ready to flatter him. 
.Nay, the interval of five years seems even too much, for in 
such a space of time it does not seem so impossible to 
corrupt by bribes or favour a very large part of the council 
however large it be. And therefore it will be far safer if 
every year two out of every clan retire, and be replaced bv 
as many more (supposing that there are to be five coun 
sellors of each clan), except in the year in which the jurist 
of any clan retires, and a fresh one is chosen in his place. 
14. Moreover, no king- can promise himself more safety, 



than lie who reigns in a commonwealth of this sort. For 
besides that a king soon perishes, when his soldiers cease 
to desire his safety, it is certain that kings are always m the 
greatest danger from those who are nearest their persons 
The fewer counsellors, then, there are, and the more powerful 
they consequently are, the more the king is in danger pt 
their transferring the dominion to another. Nothing in 
fact more alarmed David, than that his own counsellor 
Ahitophel sided with Absalom. 1 Still more is this the case, 
if the whole authority has been transferred absolutely to 
one man, because it can then be more easily transferred 
from on<5 to another. For two private soldiers once took 
in hand to transfer the Roman empire, and did transfer it. 
I omit the arts and cunning wiles, whereby counsellors have 
to assure themselves against falling victims to their im- 
popularitv ; for they are but too well known, and no one, 
who has road history, can be ignorant, that the good faith 
of counsellors has generally turned to their rum. And so 
for their own safety, it behoves them to be cunning, not 
f-iithf ul But if the counsellors are too numerous to unite 
in the same crime, and are all equal, and do not hold their 
office 1 >evond a period of four years, they cannot be at all ob 
jects of fear to the king, except he attempt to take away 
their libertv, wherein he will offend all the citizens equally. 
For as Antonio Perez 3 excellently observes, an absolute 
dominion is to the prince very dangerous, to the subjects 
very hateful, and to the institutes of God and man alike 
01 .posed, as innumerable instances show. 

15 Besides these we have, in the last chapter, laid other 
foundations, by which the king is greatly secured in his 
dominion, and the citi/ens in their hold of peace and liberty, 
which foundations we will reason out in their proper places. 
For I was anxious above everything to reason out all those, 
which refer to the great council and are of the greatest im 
portance Now I will continue with the others, in the 
same order in which I stated them. 

16. It is undoubted, that citizens are more powerful, 

1 2 Sum. xv. 31. 

3 Tacitus, Histories, i., 7. , TT . 

Antonio IVre/., a publicist, and professor of law m the University 
>f Luinuln in t no first part of the seventeenth century. 

SECS. 14-17.] O* MONARCHY. 835 

and, therefore, more independent, the larger and better 
fortified their towns are. For the safer the place is, in 
which they are, the better they can defend their liberty, and 
the less they need fear an enemy, whether without or 
within ; and it is certain that the more powerful men are 
by their riches, the more they by nature study their own 
safety. But cities which need the help of another for their 
preservation are not on terms of equal right with that 
other, but are so far dependent on his right as they need 
his help. For we showed in the second chapter, that right 
is determined by power alone. 

17. For the same reason, also, I mean that the citizens 
may continue independent, and defend their liberty, the 
militia ought to be composed of the citizens only, and none 
of them to be exempted. For an armed man is more in 
dependent than an unarmed (Sec. 12) ; and those citizens 
transfer absolutely their own right to another, and entrust 
it entirely to his good faith, who have given him their arms 
and the defences of their cities. Human avarice, by which 
most men are very much led, adds its weight to this view. 
For ifc cannot be, that a mercenary force be hired without 
great expense ; and citizens can hardly endure the exactions 
required to maintain an idle soldiery. But that no man, 
who commands the whole or a large part of the militia, 
should, except under pressure of necessity, be chosen for 
the extreme term of a year, all are aware, who have read 
history, alike sacred and profane. For there is nothing 
that reason more clearly teaches. For surely the might of 
dominion is altogether entrusted to him, who is allowed 
enough time to gain military glory, and raise his fame 
above the king s, or to make the army faithful to himself 
by flattery, largesses, and the other arts, whereby generals 
are accustomed to procure the enslavement of others, and 
the mastery for themselves. Lastly, I have added this 
point for the greater safety of the whole dominion, that 
these commanders of the militia are to be selected from 
the king s counsellors or ex-counsellors that is, from men 
who have reached the age at which mankind generally 
prefer what is old and safe to what is new and dangerous. 1 

1 Chap. VI. Sec. 10. 


18. I said that the citizens were to be divided into clans, 1 
and an equal number of counsellors chosen from each, in 
order that the larger towns might have, in proportion to 
the number of their citizens, a greater number of coun 
sellors, and be able, as is equitable, to contribute more 
votes. For the power and, therefore, the right of a 
dominion is to be estimated by the number of its citizens ; 
and I do not believe that any fitter means can be devised 
for maintaining this equality between citizens, who are 
all by nature so constituted, that everyone wishes to be 
attributed to his own stock, and be distinguished by race 
from the rest. 

lit. Furthermore, in the state of nature, there is nothing 
which any man can less claim for himself, and make his 
own, than the soil, and whatever so adheres to the soil, that 
he cannot hide it anywhere, nor carry it whither he pleases. 
Tin- soil, therefore, and whatever adheres to it in the way 
we have mentioned, must be quite common property of the 
commonwealth that is, of all those who, by their united 
force, can vindicate their claim to it, or of him to whom all 
have u-iven authority to vindicate his claim. And therefore 
the soil, and all that adheres to it, ought to have a value 
with the citizens proportionate to the necessity there is, 
that they may be able to set their feet thereon, and defend 
their common right or liberty. But in the eighth section 
of this chapter we have shown the advantages that the 
< -omimmwealth must necessarily derive hence. 

JO. In order that the citizens may TV as far as possible 
e.p .al. which is of Ihe first necessity in a, commonwealth, 
none but the descendants of a king are to le thought noble. 
r>nt it all the descendants of kings were allowed to marry 
wives, or beget children, they would grow, in process of 
time, to a very large number, and would be, not only 
burdensome, but also a cause of very great fear, to king 
and all. For men who have too much leisure generally 
meditate crime. And hence it is that kings are, on account 
of their nobles, very much induced to make war, because 
kings surrounded with nobles find more quiet and safety in 
\var\hari in peace. But I pass by this as notorious enough, 

1 Chap. VI. SHI-S. 11, 15, 1C, 

SECS. 18-22.] OF MOSAECH?. 33? 

and also the points which I have mentioned in Sees. 15-27 
of the last chapter. For the main points have been proved 
in this chapter, and the rest are self-evident. 

21. That the judges ought to be too numerous for a 
large proportion of them to be accessible to the bribes of a 
private man, and that they should not vote openly, but 
secretly, and that they deserve payment for their time, is 
known to everyone. 1 But they everywhere have by custom 
a yearly salary ; and so they make no great haste to deter 
mine suits, and there is often no end to trials. Next, where 
confiscations accrue to the king, there frequently in trials 
not truth nor right, but the greatness of a man s riches is 
regarded. Informers are ever at work, and everyone who 
has money is snatched as a prey, which evils, though 
grievous and intolerable, are excused by the necessity of 
warfare, and continue even in time of peace. But the 
avarice of judges that are appointed but for two or three 
years at most is moderated by fear of their successors, not 
to mention, again, that they can have no fixed property, 
but must lend their money at interest to their fellow- 
citizens. And so they are forced rather to consult their 
welfare than to plot against them, especially if the judges 
themselves, as we have said, are numerous. 

22. But we have said, that no military pay is to be voted.* 
For the chief reward of military service is liberty. For in 
the state of nature everyone strives, for bare liberty s sake, 
to defend himself to the utmost of his power, and expects 
no other reward of warlike virtue but his own indepen 
dence. But, in the civil state, all the citizens together are 
to be considered as a man in the state of nature ; and, 
therefore, when all fight on behalf of that state, all are de 
fending themselves, and engaged on their own business. 
But counsellors, judges, magistrates, and the like, are en 
gaged more on others business than on their own ; and so 
it is but fair to pay them for their time. Besides, in war, 
there can be no greater or more honourable inducement to 
victory than the idea of liberty. But if, on the contrary, a 
certain portion of the citizens be designated as soldiers, on 
which account it will be necessary to award them a fixed pay, 

1 Chap. VI. Sees. 27, 28. Chap. VI. Sec. 31. 


the Icing will, of necessity, distinguish them above the rest 
(as we showed, Sec. 12) that is, will distinguish men who 
are acquainted only with the arts of war, and, in time of 
peace, from excess of leisure, become debauched, and, 
finally, from poverty, meditate nothing but rapine, civil 
discord, and wars. And so we can affirm, that a monarchy 
of this sort is, in fact, a state of war, and in it only the 
soldiery enjoy liberty, but the rest are slaves. 

23. *Our* remarks about the admission of foreigners 
(Chap. VI. Sec. 32) I believe to be obvious. Besides, no 
one can doubt that the king s blood-relations should be at 
a distance from him, and occupied, not by warlike, but by 
peaceful business, whence they may get credit and the 
dominion quiet. Though even this has not seemed a suiii- 
cient precaution to the Turkish despots, who, therefore, 
make a point of slaughtering all their brothers. And no 
wonder : for the more absolutely the right of dominion has 
been conferred on one man, the more easily, as we showed 
by an instance (Sec. 14), it can be transferred from one to 
another. But that in such a monarchy, as we here sup 
pose, in which, I mean, there is not one mercenary soldier, 
the plan we have mentioned provides sufficiently for the 
king s safety, is not to be doubted. 

24. Nor can anyone hesitate about what we have said in 
the thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth sections of the last 
chapter. But that the king must not marry a foreigner l 
is easily proved. Far not to monition that two common 
wealths, although united by a treaty, are yet in a state of 
hostility (Chap. III. Sec. 14), it is very much to be avoided 
that war should he stirred up, on account of the king s 
domestic affairs, loth because disputes and dissensions 
arise peculiarly from an alliance founded on marriage, and 
because questions between two commonwealths are mostly 
settled by war. Of this we read a fatal instance in Scrip 
ture. For after the death of Solomon, who had married 
the king of Egypt s daughter, his son Eehoboam waged a 
most disastrous war with Shishak, king of the Egyptians, 
who utterly subdued him. 4 Moreover, the marriage of 
Lewis XIV. , king of France with the daughter of Philip IV. 

1 Chap. VI. Sec. 36. a 1 Kings xiv. 25 ; 2 Chron. xii. 

SECS. 22-2$.] 6? MONARCHY. 339 

was the seed of a fresh war. 1 And, besides these, very many 
instances may be read in history. 

25. The form of the dominion ought to be kept one and 
the same, and, consequently, there should be but one king, 
and that of the same sex, and the dominion should be in 
divisible. 2 But as to my saying that the king s eldest son 
should succeed his father by right, or (if there be no issue) 
the nearest to him in blood, it is clear as well from Chap. 
VI. Sec. 13, as because the election of the king made by 
the multitude should, if possible, last for ever. Otherwise 
it will necessarily happen, that the supreme authority of 
the dominion will frequently pass to the multitude, which 
is an extreme and, therefore, exceedingly dangerous change. 
But those who, from the fact that the king is master of 
the dominion, and holds it by absolute right, infer that he 
can hand it over to whom he pleases, and that, therefore, 
the king s son is by right heir to the dominion, are greatly 
mistaken. For the king s will has so long the force of law, 
as he holds the sword of the commonwealth ; for the right 
of dominion is limited by power only. Therefore, a king 
may indeed abdicate, but cannot hand the dominion over 
to another, unless with the concurrence of the multitude or 
its stronger part. And that this may be more clearly 
understood, we must remark, that children are heirs to their 
parents, not by natural, but by civil law. For by the 
power of the commonwealth alone is anyone master of 
definite property. And, therefore, by the same power or 
right, whereby the will of any man concerning his property 
is held good, by the same also his will remains good after 
his own death, as long as the commonwealth endures. 
And this is the reason, why everyone in the civil state main 
tains after death the same right as he had in his lifetime, 
because, as we said, it is not by his own power, but by that 
of the commonwealth, which is everlasting, that he can 
decide anything about his property. But the king s case 
is quite different. For the king s will is the civil law it 
self, and the king the commonwealth itself. Therefore, by 
the death of the king, the commonwealth is in a manner 

1 The war between France and Spain, terminated by the first peace 
of Aix-la-Chapelle, 1665. 
a Chap. VI. Sec. 37. 

340 A POLITICAL TftEAflSE. [citAt. Vfi. 

dead, and the civil state naturally returns to the state of 
nature, and consequently the supreme authority to the 
multitude, which can, therefore, lawfully lay down new 
and abolish old laws. And so it appears that no man 
succeeds the king by right, but him whom the multitude 
wills to be successor, or in a theocracy, such as the common, 
wealth of the Hebrews once was, him whom God has 
chosen by a prophet. We might likewise infer this from 
the fact that the king s sword, or right, is in reality the 
will of the multitude itself, or its stronger part ; or else 
from the fact, that men endowed with reason never FO 
utterly abdicate their right, that they cease to be men, and 
are accounted as sheep. But to pursue this further is 

26. But the right of religion, or of worshipping God, no 
man can transfer to another. However, we have treated 
of this point at length in the last chapters of our Theo- 
logico-Political Treatise, which it is superfluous to repeat 
here. And herewith I claim to have reasoned out the 
foundations of the best monarchy, though briefly, yet with 
sufficient clearness. But their mutual interdependence, 
or, in other words, the proportions of my dominion, any 
one will easily remark, who will be at the pains to observe 
them as a whole with some attention. It remains only 
to warn the reader, that I am here conceiving of that 
monarchy, which is instituted by a free multitude, for 
which alone these foundations can serve. For a multitude 
that has grown used to another form of dominion will not 
be able without great danger of overthrow to pluck up the 
accepted foundations of the whole dominion, and change its 
?ntire fabric. 

27. And what we have written will, perhaps, be received 
with derision by those who limit to the populace only the 
vices which are inherent in all mortals ; and use such 
phrases as, " the mob, if it is not frightened, inspires no 
little fear," and " the populace is either a humble slave, or 
a haughty master," and "it has no truth or judgment," 
etc. But all have one common nature. Only we are 
deceived by power and refinement. Whence it comes that 
when two do the same thing we say, " this man may do it 
with impunity, that man may not ; " not because the deed, 

8ECS. 25-28.] OF MONARCHY. 341 

but because the doer is different. Haughtiness is a pro 
perty of rulers. Men are haughty, but by reason of an 
appointment for a year ; how much more then nobles, that 
have their honours eternal ! But their arrogance is glossed 
over with importance, luxury, profusion, and a kind of 
harmony _of vices, and a certain cultivated folly, and 
elegant villany, so that vices, each of which looked at 
separately is foul and vile, because it is then most con- 
spicuous, appear to the inexperienced and untaught honour- 
able and becoming. " The mob, too, if it is not frightened, 
inspires no little fear ; " yes, for liberty and slavery are 
not easily mingled. Lastly, as for the populace being 
devoid of truth and judgment, that is nothing wonderful,* 
since the chief business of the dominion is transacted be 
hind its back, and it can but make conjectures from the 
little, which cannot be hidden. For it is an uncommon 
virtue to suspend one s judgment. So it is supreme folly 
to ^ wish to transact everything behind the backs of the 
citizens, and to expect that they will not judge ill of the 
same, and will not give everything an unfavourable inter 
pretation. For if the populace could moderate itself, and 
suspend its judgment about things with which it is im 
perfectly acquainted, or judge rightly of things by the 
little it knows already, it would surely be more fit to 
govern, than to be governed. But, as we said, all have 
the same nature. All grow haughty with rule, and cause 
fear if they do not feel it, and everywhere truth is 
generally transgressed by enemies or guilty people ; espe 
cially where one or a few have mastery, and have respect 
in trials not to justice or truth, but to amount of wealth. 

28. Besides, paid soldiers, that are accustomed to military 
discipline, and can support cold and hunger, are likely to 
despise a crowd of citizens as very inferior for storming 
towns or fighting pitched battles. But that my dominion 
is, therefore, more unhappy or less durable, no one of 
sound mind will affirm. But, on the contrary, everyone 
that judges things fairly will admit, that that dominion is 
the most durable of all, which can content itself with pre 
serving what it has got, without coveting what belongs to 
others, and strives, therefore, most eagerly by every 
to avoid war and preserve peace. 


29. But I admit that the counsels of such a dominion 
can hardly be concealed. But everyone will also admit 
with me that it is far better for the right counsels of a 
dominion to be known to its enemies, than for the evil 
secrets of tyrants to be concealed from the citizens. They 
who can treat secretly of the affairs of a dominion have it 
absolutely under their authority, and, as they plot against 
the enemy in time of war, so do they against the citizens 
in time of peace. Now that this secrecy is often service 
able to a dominion, no one can deny ; but that without it 
the said dominion cannot subsist, no one will ever prove. 
But, on the contrary, to entrust affairs of state absolutely 
to any man is quite incompatible with the maintenance of 
liberty ; and so it is folly to choose to avoid a small loss 
by means of the greatest of evils. But the perpetual re 
frain of those who lust after absolute dominion is, that it 
is to the essential interest of the commonwealth that its 
business be secretly transacted, and other like pretences, 
which end in the more hateful a slavery, the more they are 
clothed with a show of utility. 

30. Lastly, although no dominion, as far as I know, has 
ever been founded 011 all the conditions we have mentioned, 
yet from experience itself we shall be able to prove that 
this form of monarchy is the best, if we consider the causes 
of the preservation and overthrow of any dominion that is 
not barbarous. But this I could not do without greatly 
wearying the reader. However, I cannot pass over in 
silence one instance, that seems worth remembering : I 
mean the dominion of the Arragonese, who showed a sin 
gular loyalty towards their kings, and with equal constancy 
preserved unbroken the constitution of the kingdom. For 
as soon as they had cast off the slavish yoke of the Moors, 
they resolved to choose themselves a king, but on what 
conditions they could not quite make up their minds, and 
they therefore determined to consult the sovereign pontiff 
of Momo. He, who in this matter certainly bore himself 
;is Christ s vicar, blamed them for so obstinately wishing 
to choose a king, unwarned by the example of the Hebrews. 
However, if they would not change their minds, then he 
advised thorn not to choose a king, without first instituting 
custom? equitable and suitable to the national genius, and 

BECS. 29, 30.] OF MONARCHY. 343 

above all lie would have them create some supreme council, 
to balance the king s power like the ephors of the Lace 
daemonians, and to have absolute right to determine the 
disputes, which might arise between the king and the 
citizens. So then, following this advice, they established 
the laws, which seemed to them most equitable, of which 
the supreme interpreter, and therefore supreme judge, was 
to be, not the king, but the council, which they call the 
Seventeen, and whose president has the title of Justice. 1 
This Justice then, and the Seventeen, who are chosen for 
life, not by vote but by lot, have the absolute right of re 
vising and annulling all sentences passed upon any citizen 
by other courts, civil or ecclesiastical, or by the king him 
self, so that every citizen had the right to summon the 
king himself before this council. Moreover, they once had 
the right of electing and deposing the king. But after the 
lapse of many years the king, Don Pedro, who is called the 
Dagger, by canvassing, bribery, promises, and every sort of 
practice, at length procured the revocation of this right. 
And as soon as he gained his point, he cut off, or, as I 
would sooner believe, wounded his hand before them all, 
saying, that not without the loss of royal blood could sub 
jects be allowed to choose their king. 2 Yet he effected this 
change, but upon this condition, " That the subjects have 
had and shall have the right of taking arms against any 
violence whatever, whereby any may wish to enter upon 
the dominion to their hurt, nay, against the king himself, 
or the prince, his heir, if he thus encroach." By which 
condition they certainly rather rectified than abolished that 
right. For, as we haVe shown (Chap. IV. Sees. 5, 6), a 
king can be deprived of the power of ruling, not by the 
civil law, but by the law of war, in other words the sub 
jects may resist his violence with violence. Besides this 
condition they stipulated others, which do not concern our 

1 Sec Hallam s " History of the Middle Ages," Chap. IV., for the 
constitutional history of Arrngon. Hallam calls the Justiza the Jus 
ticiary, but the literal translation, Justice, seems warranted by our own 
English use of the word to designate certain judges. 

2 Hallam says, that the king merely cut the obnoxious Privilege of 
Union, which he describes rather differently, through with his sword. 
Ihe Privilege of Union was so utterly "eradicated from the records of 
the kingdom, that its precise words have never been recovered." 


present design. Having by these customs given themselves 
a constitution to the mind of all, they continued for an in 
credible length of time unharmed, the king s loyalty to 
wards his subjects being as great as theirs towards him. 
But after that the kingdom fell by inheritance to Ferdi 
nand of Castile, who first had the surname of Catholic ; 
this liberty of the Arragonese began to displease the 
Castilians, who therefore ceased not to urge Ferdinand to 
abolish these rights. But he, not yet being accustomed to 
absolute dominion, dared make no such attempt, but re 
plied thus to his counsellors : that (not to mention that he 
had received the kingdom of Arragon on those terms, which 
they knew, and had most solemnly sworn to observe the 
same, and that it was inhuman to break his word) he was 
of opinion, that his kingdom would be stable, as long as its 
safety was as much to the subjects as to the king s inte 
rest, so that neither the king should outweigh the subjects, 
nor yet the subjects the king ; for that if either party were 
too powerful, the weaker would not only try to recover its 
former equality, but in vexation at its injury to retaliate 
upon the other, whence would follow the ruin of either or 
both. Which very wise language I could not enough 
wonder at, had it proceeded from a king accustomed to 
command not freemen but slaves. Accordingly the Arra 
gonese retained their liberties after the time of Ferdinand, 
though no longer by right but by the favour of their too 
powerful kings, until the reign of Philip II., who oppressed 
them with better luck, but no less cruelty, than he did the 
United Provinces. And although Philip III. is supposed 
to have restored everything to its former position, yet the 
Arragonese, partly from eagerness to flatter the powerful 
(for it is folly to kick against the pricks), partly from 
terror, have kept nothing but the specious names and 
empty forms of liberty. 

31. We conclude, therefore, that the multitude may 
preserve under a king an ample enough liberty ; if it con 
trive that the king s power be determined by the sole 
power, and preserved by the defence of the multitude 
itself. And this was the single rule which I followed in 
laying the foundations of monarchy. 





far of monarchy. But now we will say, on what 

may be 
aristocrat ^ dominion as that, 

cl os o .f ^ certain 

r , T Wh m We 8haU henceforth call 

patiicians I say expressly, that which is held by certain 
persons chosen." For the chief difference between hS 
and a democracy is, that the right of governing depends in 
an aristocracy on election only, but in a democracy P f or the 
most part on some right either congenital or acquired by 
fortune (as we shall explain in its place) ; and therefore 
although in any dominion the entire multitude be received 
into the number of the patricians, provided that right of 
heirs is not inherited, and does not descend by some law 
to others, the dominion will for all that be quite an aristo 
cracy, Because none are received into the number of the 
patricians save by express election. But if these chosen 
persons were but two, each of them will try to be more 
powerful than the other, and from the too great power of 
eack the dominion will easily be split into two factions 
and in like manner into three, four, or five factions, if 
three four or five persons were put into possession of it. 
But the factions will be the weaker, the more there are to 
whom the dominion was delegated. And hence it follows 
that to secure the stability of an aristocracy, it is necessary 
to consider the proportionate size of the actual dominion, in 
order to determine the minimum number of patricians 

2 Let it be supposed, then, that for a dominion of mo 

derate size it suffices to be allowed a hundred of the best 

men, and that upon them has been conferred the supreme 

authority of the dominion, and that they have consequently 

right to elect their patrician colleagues, when any of 


the number die. These men will certainly endeavour to 
secure their succession to their children or next in blood. 
And thus the supreme authority of the dominion will 
always be with those, whom fortune has made children or 
kinsmen to patricians. And, as out of a hundred men who 
rise to office by fortune, hardly three are found that excel 
in knowledge and counsel, it will thus come to pass, that 
the authority of the dominion will rest, not with a hundred, 
but only with two or three who excel by vigour of mind, 
and who will easily draw to themselves everything, and 
each of them, as is the wont of human greed, will be able to 
prepare the way to a monarchy. And so, if we make a 
right calculation, it is necessary, that the supreme autho 
rity of a dominion, whose size requires at least a hundred 
first-rate men, should be conferred on not less than five 
thousand. For by this proportion it will never fail, but a 
hundred shall be found excelling in mental vigour, that is, 
on the hypothesis that, out of fifty that seek and obtain 
office, one will always be found not less than first-rate, besides 
others that imitate the virtues of the first-rate, and are 
therefore worthy to rule. 

3. The piitriciuns are most commonly citizens of one city, 
which is the head of the whole dominion, so that the 
commonwealth or republic has its name from it, as once 
that of Rome, and now those of Venice, Genoa, etc. But 
the republic of the Dutch has its name from an entire pro 
vince, whence it arises, that the subjects of this dominion 
enjoy a greater liberty. Now, before we can determine the 
foundations on which this aristocratic dominion ought to 
rest, we must observe a very great different, which exists 
between the dominion which is conferred on one man and 
that which is conferred on a sufficiently large council. 
For, in the first place, the power of one man is (as we said, 
Chap. VI. Sec. 5) very inadequate to support the entire 
dominion ; 1 ut this no one, without manifest absurdity, can 
affirm of a sufficiently large council. For, in declaring the 
council to be sufficiently large, one at the same time denies, 
that it is inadequate "to support the dominion. A king, 
therefore, is altogether in need of counsellors, but a council 
like this is not so in the least. In the second place, kings 
are mortal, but councils are everlasting. And so the power 

8ECS. 2-5.] Off ARISTOCRACY. 347 

of the dominion which has once been transferred to a large 
enough council never reverts to the multitude. But this is 
otherwise in a monarchy, as we showed (Chap. VII. 
Sec. 25). Thirdly, a king s dominion is often on suf 
ferance, whether from his minority, sickness, or old age, or 
from other causes ; but the power of a council of this kind, 
on the contrary, remains always one and the same. In the 
fourth place, one man s will is very fluctuating and incon 
stant ; and, therefore, in a monarchy, all law is, indeed, the 
explicit will of the king (as we said, Chap. VII. Sec. 1), 
but not every will of the king ought to be law ; but this 
cannot be said of the will of a sufficiently numerous council. 
For since the council itself, as we have just shown, needs 
no counsellors, its every explicit will ought to be law. And 
hence we conclude, that the dominion conferred upon a 
large enough council is absolute, or approaches nearest to 
the absolute. For if there be any absolute dominion, it is, 
in -fact, that which is held by an entire multitude. 

4. Yet in so far as this aristocratic dominion never (as 
has just been shown) reverts to the multitude, and there is 
under it no consultation with the multitude, but, without 
qualification, every will of the council is law, it must be 
considered as quite absolute, and therefore its foundations 
ought to rest only on the will and judgment of the said 
council, and not on the watchfulness of the multitude, 
since the latter is excluded from giving its advice or its 
vote. The reason, then, why in practice aristocracy is not 
absolute, is that the multitude is a cause of fear to the 
rulers, and therefore succeeds in retaining for itself some 
liberty, which it asserts and holds as its own, if not by an 
express law, yet on a tacit understanding. 

5. And thus it is manifest that this kind of dominion 
will be in the best possible condition, if its institutions are 
such that it most nearly approaches the absolute that is, 
that the multitude is as little as possible a cause of fear, 
and retains no liberty, but such as must necessarily be as 
signed it by the law of the dominion itself, and is therefore 
not so much a right of the multitude as of the whole 
dominion, asserted and maintained by the aristocrats only 
as their own. For thus practice agrees best with theory, 
as appears from the last section, and is also self-evident. 


For we cannot doubt that the dominion rests the loss with 
the patricians, the more rights the commons assert for 
themselves, such as those which the corporations of artisans 
in Lower Germany, commonly called Guilds, generally 

6. But the commons need not apprehend any danger of 
a hateful slavery from this form of dominion, merely be 
cause it is conferred on the council absolutely. For the will 
of so large a council cannot be so much determined by lust 
as by reason ; because men are drawn asunder by an evil 
passion, and cannot be guided, as it were, by one mind, 
except so far as they desire things honourable, or that have 
at least an honourable appearance. 

7. In determining, then, the foundations of an aristo 
cracy, it is above all to be observed, that they should rest 
on the sole will and power of the supreme council, so that 
it may be as independent as possible, and be in no danger 
from the multitude. In order to determine these founda* 
tions, which are to rest, I say, upon the sole will and powei 
of the council, let us see what foundations of peace are 
peculiar to monarchy, and unsuited to this form of do 
minion. For if we substitute for these equivalent founda 
tions fit for an aristocracy, and leave the rest, as they are 
already laid, we shall have removed without doubt every 
cause of seditions ; or, at least, this kind of dominion will 
be no less safe than the monarchical, but, on the contrary, 
so much the more so, and of so much better a condition, as, 
without danger to peace and liberty, it approaches nearer 
than monarchy to the absolute (Sees. 3, 6). For the greater 
the right of the supreme authority, the more the form of 
dominion agrees with the dictate of reason (Chap. III. 
Sec. 5 1 ), and, therefore, the fitter it is to maintain peace 
and liberty. Let us run through, therefore, the points we 
stated in our sixth chapter, beginning with the ninth sec 
tion, thnt we may reject what is unfit for this kind of 
dominion, and see what agrees with it. 

8. That it is necessary, in the first place, to found and 
fortify one or more cities, no one can doubt. But that city 
is above all to be fortified, which is the head of the whole 

1 Ou^ht not this reference to be to Chap. III. Sec. 6 ? 

fiECS. 5-9.] OF AElSTOCBACYi g^f) 

dominion, and also those that are on its frontiers For 
that which is the head of the whole dominion, and has tne 
supreme right, ought to be more powerful than the rest 
.But under this kind of dominion it is quite unnecessary to 
divide all the inhabitants into clans. 

9. As for the military, since under this dominion equality 
is not to be looked for among all, but between the patri 
cians only, and, in particular, the power of the patricians is 
greater than that of the commons, it is certain that it 
makes no difference to the laws or fundamental principles 
ot this dominion, that the military be formed of others 
besides subjects. 1 But it is of the first importance that no 
one be admitted into the number of the patricians, that has 
not a proper knowledge of the art of war. But for the 
subjects to be excluded, as some would have it, from mill- 
tary service, is surely folly. For besides that the military 
pay given to subjects remains within the realm, whereas 
on the contrary, what is paid to a foreign soldiery is alto- 
gether lost, the greatest strength of the dominion is also 
thereby weakened. For it is certain that those fight with 
peculiar _ valour who fight for altar and hearth. Whence, 
also, it is manifest that those are no less wrong, who lay 
down that military commanders, tribunes, centurions, etc , 
should be chosen from among the patricians only. For 
with what courage will those soldiers fight who are deprived 
of all hope of gaining glory and advancement ? But, on the 
other hand, to establish a law forbidding the patricians to 
hire foreign soldiers when circumstances require it, whether 
to defend themselves, and suppress seditions, or for any 
other reason, besides being inconsiderate, would also be re 
pugnant to the supreme right of the patricians, concerning 
which see Sees. 3, 4, 5 of this chapter. But the general of 
a single army, or of the entire military, is to be chosen 
but 111 time of war, and among the patricians only, and is 
to hold the command for a year at most, without power of 
being continued therein, or afterwards reappointed. For 
this law, necessary as it is under a monarchy, is so above 
all under this kind of dominion. For although it is much 
easier, as we have said above, to transfer the dominion 

1 Cf. Chap. VI. Sec. 10. 

350 A POLITICAL TREATISE. [cttAt. Vtti. 

from one man to another than from a free council to one 
man ; yet it does often happen, that patricians are subdued 
by their own generals, and that to the much greater harrr 
of the commonwealth. For when a monarch is removed, 
it is but a change of tyrant, not of the form of dominion ; 
but, under an aristocracy, this cannot happen, without an 
upsetting of the form of dominion, and a slaughter of the 
greatest men. Of which thing Koine has offered the most 
mournful examples. But our reason for saying that, under 
a monarchy, the militia should serve without pay, is here 
inapplicable. For since the subjects are excluded from 
giving their advice or votes, they are to be reckoned as 
foreigners, and are, therefore, to be hired for service on no 
worse terms than foreigners. And there is in this case no 
danger of their being distinguished above the rest by the 
patricians : nay, further, to avoid the partial judgment 
which everyone is apt to form of his own exploits, it is 
wiser for the patricians to assign a fixed payment to the 
soldiers for their service. 

10. Furthermore, for this same reason, that all but the 
patricians are foreigners, it cannot be without danger to 
the whole dominion, that the lands and houses and the 
whole soil should remain public property, and be let to the 
inhabitants at a yearly rent. For the subjects having no 
part in the dominion would easily, in bad times, all forsake 
their cities, if they could carry where they pleased what 
goods they possess. And, therefore, lands and farms are 
not to Ise let, but sold to the subjects, yet on condition that 
they pay every year an aliquot part of the year s produce, 
etc., as is done in Holland. 

11. These points considered, I proceed to the foundations 
on which the supreme council should rest and be esta 
blished. We have shown (Sec. 2) that, in a moderate-sized 
dominion, this council ought to have about five thousand 
members. And so we must look for means of preventing 
the dominion from gradually getting into fewer hands, and 
of insuring, on the contrary, that the number of members 
be increased in proportion to the growth of the dominion 
itself; and, next, that between the patricians, equality be 
as far as possible maintained ; and, further, that there may 
be speed and expedition in their counsels, and that they 

SfcCS. 9-1 3.] OF AIliSTOCRActf. 851 

tend to the general good ; and, lastly, that the power of the 
patricians or council exceed the power of the multitude, yet 
so that the multitude suffer no harm thereby. 

12. But jealousy causes a great difficulty in maintaining 
our first, point. For men are, as we have said, by nature 
enemies, so that however they be associated, and bound 
together by laws, they still retain their nature. And hence 
I think it is, that democracies change into aristocracies, and 
these at length into monarchies. For I am fully persuaded 
that most aristocracies were formerly democracies. For 
when a given multitude, in search of fresh territories, lias 
found and cultivated them, it retains, as a whole, its equal 
right of dominion, because no man gives dominion to 
another spontaneously. But although every one of them 
thinks it fair, that he should have the same right against 
another that that other has against him, he yet thinks it 
unfair, that the foreigners that join them should have equal 
right in the dominion with themselves, who sought it by 
their own toil, and won it at the price of their own blood. 
And this not even the foreigners themselves deny, for, of 
course, they migrate thither, not to hold dominion, but for 
the benefit of their own private business, and are quite 
satisfied if they are but allowed the liberty of transacting 
that business in safety. But meanwhile the multitude is 
augmented by the influx of foreigners, who gradually ac 
quire the national manners, until at last they are distin 
guished by no other difference than that of incapacity to 
get office ; and while their number daily increases, that of 
the citizens, on the contrary, is by many causes diminished. 
For families often die out, and some persons are disquali 
fied for their crimes, and a great many are driven by 
domestic poverty to neglect affairs of state, and meanwhile 
the more powerful aim at nothing else, but to govern 
alone ; and thus the dominion is gradually limited to a few, 
and at length by faction to one. And here we might add 
other causes that destroy dominions of this sort ; but as 
they are well known, I pass them by, and proceed now to 
state the laws by which this dominion, of which we are 
treating, ought to be maintained. 

13. The primary law of this dominion ought to be that 
which determines the proportionate numbers of patricians 


and multitude. For a proportion (Sec. 1) ought to be 
maintained between the multitude and the patricians, so 
that with the increase of the former the number of the 
latter should be raised. And this proportion (in accord 
ance with our remarks in the second section) ought to be 
about fifty to one, that is, the inequality between the 
members of each should never be greater. For (Sec. 1) 
without destroying the form of dominion, the number of 
patricians may be greater than the number of the multi- 
titude. But there is no danger except in the smallness 
of their number. But how it is to be provided that this 
law be kept unbroken, I will presently show in its owu 

14. Patricians, in some places, are chosen only out of 
particular families. But it is ruinous to lay this down 
expressly by law. For not to mention that families often 
die out, and that the other families can never be excluded 
without disgrace, it is also repugnant to the form of this 
dominion, that the dignity of patrician should be hereditary 
(Sec. 1). But on this system a dominion seems rather a 
democracy, such as we have described in Sec. 12, that is in 
the hands of very few citizens. But, on the other hand, 
to provide against the patricians choosing their own sons 
and kinsmen, and thereby against the right of dominion 
remaining in particular families, is impossible, and indeed 
absurd, as I shall show (Sec. 39). But provided that 
they hold that right by no express law, and that the 
rest (I mean, such as are born within the dominion, and 
use the vulgar tongue, and h^ve not a foreign wife, and 
are not infamous, nor servants, nor earning their living by 
any servile trade, among which are to be reckoned those of 
a wine-merchant, or brewer) are not excluded, the form of 
the dominion will, notwithstanding, be retained, and it will 
be possible to maintain the proportion between the patri 
cians and the multitude. 

15. But if it be further by law appointed that no young 
men be chosen, it will never happen that a few families 
hold the right of government in their hands. And, there 
fore, bo it by law appointed, that no man that has not 
reached his thirtieth year be put on the list of candidates. 

16. Thirdly, it is next to be ordained, that all the 

SECS. 13-19.] OF AEISTOCRACY, 853 

patricians must "be assembled at certain fixed times in a 
particular part of the city, and that whoever does not 
attend the council, unless he be hindered by illness or some 
public business, shall be fined some considerable amount. 
For, were it otherwise, most of them would neglect the 
public, for the sake of their own private affairs. 

17. Let this council s functions be to pass and repeal 
laws, and to choose their patrician colleagues, and all the 
ministers of the dominion. For he, that has supreme 
right, as we have decided that this council has, cannot give 
to anyone authority to pass and repeal laws, without at the 
same time abdicating his own right, and transferring it 
to him, to whom he gives that power. For he, that has 
but for one day only authority to pass and repeal laws, is 
able to change the entire form of the dominion. But one 
can, without forfeiting one s supreme right, temporarily 
entrust to others the daily business of dominion to be ad 
ministered according to the established laws. Further 
more, if the ministers of dominion were chosen by any 
other but this council, then its members would be more 
properly called wards than patricians. 

18. Hence some are accustomed to create for the council 
a ruler or prince, either for life, as the Venetians, or for a 
time, as the Genoese ; but yet with such great precautions, 
as make it clear enough, that it is not done without great 
risk. And assuredly we cannot doubt but that the do 
minion thereby approaches the monarchical form, and as 
far as we can conjecture from their histories, it was done 
for no other reason, than that before the institution of 
these councils they had lived under a ruler, or doge, as 
under a king. And so the creation of a ruler is a necessary 
requisite indeed for the particular nation, but not for the 
aristocratic dominion considered in itself. 

19. But, inasmuch as the supreme authority of this 
dominion rests with this council as a whole, not with every 
individual member of it (for otherwise it would be but 
the gathering of an undisciplined mob), it is, therefore, 
necessary that all the patricians be so bound by the laws 
as to form, as it were, one body governed by one mind. 
But the laws by themselves alone are weak and easily 
broken, when their vindicators are the very persons who 

A A 


arc able to transgress them, and the only ones who are to 
take warning by the punishment, and must punish their 
colleagues in order by fear of the same punishment to 
restrain their own desire : for all this involves a great ab 
surdity. And, therefore, means must be sought to preserve 
order in this supreme council and keep unbroken the consti 
tution of the dominion, so that yet the greatest possible 
equality may exist between patricians. 

20. But since, from a single ruler or prince, able also to 
vote in the debates, there must necessarily arise a great 
inequality, especially on account of the power, which must 
of necessity be granted him, in order to enable him to 
discharge his duty in safety ; therefore, if we consider the 
whole matter aright, nothing can be devised more useful 
to the general welfare than the institution of another 
council of certain patricians subordinate to the supreme 
council, whose only duty should be to see that the consti 
tution, as far as it concerns the councils and ministers of 
the dominion, be kept unbroken, and who should, therefore, 
have authority to summon to judgment and, in conformity 
with established law, to condemn any delinquent who, as a 
minister of the dominion, has transgressed the laws con 
cerning his office. And these patricians we shall hereafter 
call syndics. 

21. And they are to be chosen for life. For, wore they 
to be chosen for a time, so that they should afterwards be 
eligible for other offices in the dominion, we should fall 
into the very absurdity which we have just pointed out in 
the nineteenth section. But lest they should become quite 
haughty by very long rule, none are to be elected to this 
office, but those who have reached their sixtieth year or more, 
and have discharged the duties of senator, of which below. 

22. Of these, too, we shall easily determine the number, 
if we consider that these syndics stand to the patricians in 
the same relation as the whole body of patricians together 
does to the multitude, which they cannot govern, if they 
are fewer than a proper number. And, therefore, tho 
number of the syndics should be to that of patricians as 
their number is to that of the multitude, that is (Sec. 13), 
as one to fifty. 

23. Moreover, that this council may discharge its func- 

SECS. 19-25.] 6 ARISTOCRACY. 355 

tions in security, some portion of the soldiery must be 
assigned to it, and be subject to its orders. 

24. The syndics and other ministers of state are to have 
no salary, but such emoluments, that they cannot malad- 
mmster affairs of state without great loss to themselves 
For we cannot doubt that it is fair, that the ministers of 
this kind of dominion should be awarded a recompense for 
their time, since the commons are the majority in this 
dominion, and the patricians look after their safety, while 
they themselves have no trouble with affairs of state, but 
only with their own private ones. But since, on the other 
hand, no man (Chap. VII. Sec. 4) defends another s 
cause, save in so far as he thereby hopes to establish his 
own interest, things must, of necessity, be so ordered that 
the ministers, who have charge of affairs of state, should 
most pursue their own interest, when they are most watch- 
ful for the general good. 

25 To the syndics then, whose duty, as we said, it is to 
see that the constitution is kept unbroken, the following 
emoluments are to be awarded : namely, that every house- 
holder that inhabits any place in the dominion, be bound 
to pay every year a coin of small value, say a quarter of 
an ounce of silver, to the syndics, that thus thev may 
know the number of inhabitants, and so observe what 
proportion of them the patricians constitute; and next 
that every new patrician on his election must pay the 
syDdics some large sum, for instance, twenty or twenty-five 
pounds of silver. Moreover, that money, in which the 
absent patricians (I mean those who have failed to attend 
the meeting of the council) are condemned, is also to be 
awarded to the syndics ; and a part, too, of the goods of 
detaultmg ministers, who are bound to abide their iudo-- 
ment, and who are fined a certain sum of money, or have 
their goods confiscated, should be devoted to them, not to 
all indeed, but to those only who sit daily, and whose duty 
it is to summon the council of syndics, concerning whom 
see Sec. 28. But, in order that the council of syndics may 
always be maintained at its full number, before all other 
business in the supreme council, when it is assembled at 
the usual time, inquiry is to be made about this. Which 
if the syndics neglect, let it then devolve upon the presi- 


dent of the senate (concerning which we shall soon have 
occasion to speak), to admonish the supreme council on 
this head, to demand of the president of the syndics the 
reason of his silence, and to inquire what is the supreme 
council s opinion in the matter. But if the president of 
the senate is likewise silent, let the case be taken up by the 
president of the supreme court of justice, or if he too is 
silent by some other patrician, and let him demand an 
explanation of their silence from the presidents of the 
senate and the court of justice, as well as from the presi 
dent of the syndics. Lastly, that that law, whereby young 
men are excluded, may likewise be strictly observed, it 
is to be appointed that all who have reached the thirtieth 
year of their age, and who are not by express law excluded, 
are to have their names inscribed on a list, in presence of 
the syndics, and to receive from them, at a fixed price, 
some sign of the honour conferred on them, namely, that 
they muv be allowed to wear a particular ornament only 
permitted to them, to distinguish them and make them to 
be had in honour by the rest; and, at the same time, be it 
ordained, that in elections none may nominate as patrician 
anyone whose name is not inscribed on the general list, 
and that under a heavy penalty. And, further, let no one 
be allowed to refuse the burden of a duty or oflice, which 
lie is chosen to bear. Lastly, that all the absolutely funda 
mental laws of the dominion may be everlasting, it must 
be ordained that if anyone in the supreme council raise a 
question about any fundamental law, as of prolonging the 
command of any general of an army, or of diminishing the 
number of patricians, or the like, he is guilty of treason, 
and not only is he to be condemned to death, and his goods 
confiscated, but some sign of his punishment is to remain 
visible in public for an eternal memorial of the event. But 
for the confirming of the other general rights of the do 
minion, it is enough, if it be only ordained, that no law 
can be repealed nor new law passed, unless first the college 
of syndics, and then three-fourths or four-fifths of the 
supreme council agree thereto. 

26. Lot the right also of summoning the supreme council 
and proposing the matters to be decided in it, rest with tho 
syndics, and let them likewise be given the first place in 

SECS. 25-28.] OF ARISTOCRACY. 357 

the council, but without the right to vote. But before they 
take their seats, they must swear by the safety of that 
supreme council and by the public liberty, that they will 
strive with the utmost zeal to preserve unbroken the 
ancient laws, and to consult the general good. After which 
let them through their secretary open in order the subjects 
of discussion. 

27. But that all the patricians may have equal authority 
in making decrees and electing the ministers of the do 
minion, and that speed and expedition in all matters may 
be possible, the order observed by the Venetians is alto 
gether to be approved, for they appoint by lot a certain 
number of the council to name the ministers, and when 
these have named in order the candidates for office, every 
patrician signifies by ballot his opinion, approving or re 
jecting the candidate in question, so that it is not after 
wards known, who voted in this or that sense. Whereby 
it is contrived, not only that the authority of all the patri 
cians in the decision is equal, and that business is quickly 
despatched, but also, that everyone has absolute liberty 
(which is of the first necessity in councils) to give his 
opinion without danger of unpopularity. 

28. But in the councils of syndics and the other councils, 
the same order is to be observed, that voting is to be by 
ballot. But the right of convoking the council of syndics 
and of proposing the matters to be decided in the same 
ought to belong to their president, who is to sit every day 
with ten or more other syndics, to hear the complaints and 
secret accusations of the commons against the ministers, 
and to look after the accusers, if circumstances require, and 
to summon the supreme council even before the appointed 
time, if any of them judge that there is danger in the 
delay. Now this president and those who meet with him 
every day are to be appointed by the supreme council and 
out of the number of syndics, not indeed for life, but for 
six months, and they must not have their term renewed 
but after the lapse of three or four years. And these, as 
we said above, are to be awarded the goods that are confis 
cated and the pecuniary fines, or some part of them. The 
remaining points which concern the syndics we will men 
tion in their proper places. 


29. The second council, which is subordinate to the 
supreme one, we will call the senate, and let its duty be to 
transact public business, for instance, to publish the laws 
of the dominion, to order the fortifications of the cities 
according to law, to confer military commissions, to impose 
taxes on the subjects and apply the same, to answer foreign 
embassies, and decide where embassies are to be sent. But 
let the actual appointment of ambassadors be the duty of 
the supreme council. For it is of the greatest consequence 
to see that no patrician be called to any office in the domi 
nion but by the supreme council itself, lest the patricians 
themselves should try to curry favour with the senate. 
Secondly, all matters are to be referred to the supreme 
council, which in any way alter the existing state of things, 
as the deciding on peace and war. Wherefore, that the 
senate s decrees concerning peace and war may be valid, 
they must be confirmed by the supreme council. And 
therefore I should say, that it belonged to the supreme 
council only, not to the senate, to impose new taxes. 

30. In determining the number of senators these points 
are to be taken into consideration : first, that all the 
patricians should have an equal hope of gaining senatorial 
rank ; secondly, that notwithstanding the same senators, 
whose time (for which they were elected) is elapsed, may 
be continued after a short interval, that so the dominion 
may always be governed by skilled and experienced men ; 
and lastly, that among the senators many may be found 
illustrious for wisdom and virtue. But to secure all these 
conditions, there can be no other means devised, than that 
it should be by law appointed, that no one who has not 
reached his fiftieth year, be received into the number of 
senators, and that four hundred, that is about a twelfth 
part of the patricians, be appointed for a year, and that 
two years after that year has elapsed, the same be capable 
of re-appointment. For in this manner about a twelfth 
part of the patricians will be constantly engaged in the 
duty of senator, with only short intervening periods; and 
this number surely, together with that made up by the 
syndics, will be little less than the number of patricians 
that have attained their fiftieth year. And so all the 
patricians will always have a great hope of gaining the rank 

BECS. 20-31.] OF ARISTOCRACY. 359 

of senator or syndic, and yet notwithstanding, the same 
patricians, at only short intervals, will always hold sena 
torial rank, and (according to what we said, Sec. 2) there 
will never be wanting in the senate distinguished men, ex 
celling in counsel and skill. And because this law cannot 
be broken without exciting great jealousy on the part of 
many patricians, it needs no other safeguard for its con 
stant validity, than that every patrician who has reached 
the age we mentioned, should offer the proof thereof to the 
syndics, who shall put his name on the list of candidates 
for the senatorial duties, and read the name before the 
supreme council, so that he may occupy, with the rest of 
the same rank, a place set apart in this supreme council 
for his fellows, next to the place of the senators. 

31. The emoluments of the senators should be of such a 
kind, that their profit is greater from peace than from 
war. And therefore let there be awarded to them a hun 
dredth or a fiftieth part of the merchandise exported 
abroad from the dominion, or imported into it from abroad. 
For we cannot doubt, that by this means they will, as far 
as they can, preserve peace, and never desire to protract 
war. And from this duty not even the senators themselves, 
if any of them are merchants, ought to be exempt ; for such 
an immunity cannot be granted without great risk to trade, 
as I think no one is ignorant. Nay, on the contrary, it 
must be by law ordained, that no senator or ex- senator 
may fill any military post ; and further, that no one may 
be declared general or praetor, which officers we said 
(Sec. 9) were to be only appointed in time of war, whose 
father or grandfather is a senator, or has held the dignity 
of senator within two years. Which laws we cannot doubt, 
that the patricians outside the senate will defend with all 
their might : and so it will be the case, that the senators 
will always have more profit from peace than from war, 
and will, therefore, never advise war, except the utmost 
need of the dominion compels them. But it may be ob 
jected to us, that on this system, if, that is, syndics and 
senators are to be allowed so great profits, an aristocracy 
will be as burdensome to the subjects as any monarchy. 
But not to mention that royal courts require larger expen 
diture, and aro yet not provided in order to secure peace, 


and that peace can never be bought too dear ; it is to be 
added, first, that all that under a monarchy is conferred on 
one or a few, is here conferred upon very many. Next 
kings and their ministers do not bear the burden of the 
dominion with the subjects, but under this form, of domi 
nion it is just the reverse; for the patricians, who are 
always chosen from the rich, bear the largest share of the 
weight of the commonwealth. Lastly, the burdens of a 
monarchy spring not so much from its king s expenditure, 
as from its secret policy. For those burdens of a dominion, 
that are imposed on the citizens in order to secure peace 
and liberty, great though they be, are yet supported and 
lightened by the usefulness of peace. What nation ever 
had to pay so many and so heavy taxes as the Dutch ? Yet 
it not only has not been exhausted, but, on the contrary, 
has been so mighty by its wealth, that all envied its good 
fortune. If therefore the burdens of a monarchy were im 
posed for the sake of peace, they would not oppress the 
citizens ; but, as I have said, it is from the secret policy of 
that sort of dominion, that the subjects faint under their 
lord ; that is, because the virtue of kings counts for more 
in time of war than in time of peace, and because they, who 
would reign by themselves, ought above all to try and have 
their subjects poor ; not to mention other things, which 
that most prudent Dutchman V. H. 1 formerly remarked, 
because they do not concern my design, which is only to 
describe the best state of every kind of dominion. 

32. Of the syndics chosen by the supreme council, some 
should sit in the senate, but without the right of voting, 
so that they may see whether the laws concerning that 
assembly be duly observed, and may have the supreme 
council convoked, when anything is to be referred to it 
from the senate. For the supreme right of convoking thio 
council, and proposing to it subjects of discussion, is, as we 
have already said, with the syndics. But before the votes 
of the contemporaries of the senators be taken, the pre- 

1 " This V. II. is Pieter do la Court (1618-85), an en incnt publicist, 
who wrote under the initials J). C. (J)i la Court), V. II. (Van den Hove, 
the Dutch equivalent). He was a friend of John de Witt, and opposed 
to the party of the Statholders. POLLOCK S Life and Philosophy of 
Spinoza, towards end of Chap. X 

8ECS. 31-34.] OF ARISTOCRACY. 361 

sident of the senate for the time "being shall explain the 
state of affairs, and what the senate s own opinion is on the 
matter in question, and why ; after which the votes shall 
l>e collected in the accustomed order. 

33. The entire senate ought not to meet every day, but, 
like all great councils, at a certain fixed time. But as in 
the mean time the business of the dominion must be 
executed, it is, therefore, necessary that some part of the 
senators be chosen, who, on the dismissal of the senate, 
shall supply its place, and whose duty it shall be to summon 
the senate itself, when need is ; to execute its orders about 
affairs of state ; to read letters written to the senate and 
supreme council ; and, lastly, to consult about the matters 
to be proposed in the senate. But that all these points, 
and the order of this assembly, as a whole, may be more 
easily conceived, I will describe the whole matter more 

34. The senators who, as we have said already, are to be 
chosen for a year, are to be divided into four or six series, 
of which let the first have the first seat in the senate for 
the first three or two months in the year ; and at the ex 
piration of this time, let the second series take the place of 
the first, and so on, observing their turns, so that that 
series which was first in the first months may be last in 
the second period. Furthermore, there are to be appointed 
as many presidents as there are series, and the same 
number of vice-presidents to fill their places when re- 
quired that is, two are to be chosen out of every series, 
one to be its president, the other its vice-president. And 
let the president of the first series preside in the senate 
also, for the first months ; or, in his absence, let his vice- 
president fill his place ; and so on with the rest, observing 
the same order as above. Next, out of the first series, 
some are to be chosen by vote or lot to fill the place of the 
senate, when it is dismissed, in conjunction with the presi 
dent and vice-president of the same series ; and that, for the 
same space of time, as the said series occupies the first place 
in the senate ; and thus, when that time is past, as many 
are again to be chosen out of the second series, by vote or 
lot, to fill, in conjunction with their president and vice- 
president, the place of the first series, and supply the lack 


oC a senate ; and so on with the rest. And there is no need 
that the election of these men I mean those that I have 
said are to be chosen for periods of three or two months, 
1 V vote or lot should be made by the supreme council. 
For the reason which we gave in the twenty-ninth section 
is not here applicable, much less the reason stated in the 
seventeenth. It suffices, then, that they be elected by the 
senate and the syndics present at its meeting. 

35. But of these persons we cannot so precisely ascer 
tain the number. However, this is certain, that they must 
be too numerous to be easily susceptible of corruption. 
For though they can by themselves determine nothing con 
cerning affairs of state, yet they can delay the senate, or, 
what would be worst of all, delude it by putting forward 
matters of no importance, and keeping back those that are 
of greater not to mention that, if they were too few, the 
absence of one or two might delay public business. But 
as, on the contrary, these consuls are for that very reason 
appointed, because great councils cannot devote themselves 
every day to public business, a remedy must be looked for 
necessarily here, and their inadequacy of number be made 
up for by the shortness of their term of office. And thus, 
if only thirteen or so be chosen for two or three months, 
they will be too many to be corrupted in this short 
period. And for this cause, also, did I recommend that 
their successors should by no means be appointed, except 
at the very time when they do succeed, and the others go 

3(>. We have said, that it is also their duty, when any, 
though few, of them think it needful, to convoke the senate, 
to put before it the matters to be decided, to dismiss it, and 
to execute its orders about public business. But I will now 
briefly state the order in which this ought to be done, so 
that business may not be long protracted by useless ques 
tions. Let, then, the consuls consult about the matter to 
be proposed in the senate, and what is required to be done ; 
and, if they are all of one mind about it, then let them 
convoke the senate, and, having duly explained the ques 
tion, let them set forth what their opinion is, and, without 
waiting for another s opinion, collect the votes in their 
order. But if the consuls support more than one opinion, 

BECS. 34-37.] OP ARISTOCRACY. 363 

then, in the senate, that opinion is first to be stated on the 
question proposed, which was supported by the larger 
number of consuls. And if the same is not approved by 
the majority of senate and consuls, but the waverers and 
opponents together are in a majority, which is to be deter 
mined by ballot, as we have already mentioned, then let 
them set forth the second opinion, which had fewer votes 
than the former among the consuls, and so on with the 
rest. But if none be approved by a majority of the whole 
senate, the senate is to be adjourned to the next day, or 
for a short time, that the consuls meanwhile may see, if 
they can find other means, that may give more satisfaction. 
But if they do not succeed in finding other means, or if the 
majority of the senate refuses to approve such as they have 
found, then the opinion of every senator is to be heard ; 
and if the majority of the senate also refuses to support 
any of these, then the votes are to be taken again on every 
opinion, and not only the affirmative votes, as hitherto, but 
the doubtful and negative are to be counted. And if the 
affirmative prove more numerous than the doubtful or 
negative, then that opinion is to hold good ; but, on the 
contrary, to be lost, if the negative prove more numerous 
than the doubtful or affirmative. But if on every opinion 
there is a greater number of doubters than of voters for 
and against, then let the council of syndics join the seriate, 
and vote with the senators, with only affirmative and nega 
tive votes, omitting those that signify a hesitating mind. 
And the same order is to be observed about matters re 
ferred by the senate to the supreme council. So much 
for the senate. 

37. As for the court of justice or bench, it cannot rest 
upon the same foundations as that which exists under a 
monarch, as we described it in Chap. VI. Sees. 26, and 
following. For (Sec. 14) it agrees not with the founda 
tions of ^ our present dominion, that any account be made 
of families or clans. And there must be a further diffe 
rence, because judges chosen from the patricians only 
might indeed be restrained by the fear of their patrician 
successors, from pronouncing any unjust judgment against 
a_iy of the patricians, and, perhaps, would hardly have the 
courage to punish them after their deserts; but they 


would, on the other hand, dare everything against the 
commons, and daily carry off the rich among them for a 
prey. I know that the plan of the Genoese is therefore 
approved by many, for they choose their judges not among 
the patricians, but among foreigners. But this seems to 
me, considering the matter in the abstract, absurdly or 
dained, that foreigners and not patricians should be called 
in to interpret the laws. For what are judges but inter 
preters of the laws ? And I am therefore persuaded that 
herein also the Genoese have had regard rather to the 
genius of their own race, than to the very nature of this 
kind of dominion. We must, therefore, by considering the 
matter in the abstract, devise the means which best agree 
with the form of this government. 

38. But as far as regards the number of the judges, the 
theory of this constitution requires no peculiar number ; 
but as under monarchical dominion, so under this, it suffices 
that they be too numerous to be corrupted by a private 
man. For their duty is but to provide against one private 
person doing wrong to another, and therefore to decide dis 
putes between private persons, as well patricians as com 
mons, and to exact penalties from delinquents, and even 
from patricians, syndics, and senators, as far as they have 
offended against the laws, whereby all are bound. But 
disputes that may arise between cities that are subject to 
the dominion, are to be decided in the supreme council. 

39. Furthermore the principle regulating the time, for 
which the judges should be appointed, is the same in both 
dominions, and also the principle of a certain part of them 
retiring every year ; and, lastly, although it is not neces 
sary for every one of them to be of a different family, yet 
it is necessary that two related by blood should not sit on 
the same bench together. And this last point is to be ob 
served also in the other councils, except the supreme one, m 
which it is enough, if it be only provided by law that iu 
elections no man may nominate a relation, nor vote upon 
his nomination by another, and also that two relations may 
not draw lots from the urn for the nomination of any 
minister of the dominion. This, I say, is sufficient in a, 
council that is composed of so large a number of men, and 
has no special profits assigned to it. And so utterly un- 

8ECS. 37-41.] OF ARlSTOCfcACr. 365 

harmed will the dominion "be in this quarter, that it is 
absurd to pass a law excluding from the supreme council 
the relations of all the patricians, as we said in the four 
teenth section. But that it is absurd is manifest. For 
that law could not be instituted by the patricians them 
selves, without their thereby all absolutely abdicating their 
own right, and therefore not the patricians themselves but 
the commons would defend this law, which is directly con 
trary to what we proved in Sees. 5 and 6. But that law of 
the dominion, whereby it is ordained that the same uniform 
proportion be maintained between the numbers of the 
patricians and the multitude, chiefly contemplates this end 
of preserving the patricians right and power, that is, pro 
vides against their becoming too few to be able to govern 
the multitude. 

40. But the judges are to be chosen by the supreme 
council out of the patricians only, that is (Sec. 17) out of 
the actual authors of the laws, and the judgments they 
pass, as well in civil as criminal cases, shall be valid, if 
they were pronounced in due course of justice and without 
partiality ; into which matter the syndics shall be by law 
authorized to inquire, and to judge and determine thereof. 

41. The judges emoluments ought to be the same, as 
we mentioned in the twenty-ninth section of the sixth 
chapter ; namely, that they receive from the losing party 
upon every judgment which they pass in civil cases, an 
aliquot part of the whole sum at stake. But as to their 
sentences in criminal cases, let there be here this difference 
only, that the goods which they confiscate, and every fine 
whereby lesser crimes are punished, be assigned to them 
selves only, yet on this condition, that they may never 
compel anyone to confess by torture, and thus, precaution 
enough will be taken against their being unfair to the 
commons, and through fear too lenient to the patricians. 
Tor besides that this fear is tempered by avarice itself, and 
that veiled under the specious name of justice, they are 
also numerous, and vote, not openly, but by ballot, so* that 
a man may be indignant at losing his case, but can have no 
reason to impute it to a particular person. Moreover the 
fear of the syndics will restrain them from pronouncing 
an inequitable, or at least absurd sentence, or from acting 

3(>(5 A POLITICAL TREATISE. [citAP. Vlll. 

any of them treacherously, "besides that in so large a 
number of judges there will always be one or two, that the 
unfair stand in awe of. Lastly, as far as the commons are 
concerned, they also will be adequately secured if they are 
allowed to appeal to the syndics, who, as I have said, are 
by law authorized to inquire, judge, and determine about 
the conduct of the judges. For it is certain that the syndics 
will not be able to escape the hatred of the patricians, and 
on the other hand, will always be most popular with the 
commons, whose applause they will try as far as they can to 
bid for. To which end, opportunity being given them, they 
will not fail to reverse sentences pronounced against the 
laws of the court, and to examine any judge, and to punish 
those that are partial, for nothing moves the hearts of a 
multitude more than this. Nor is it an objection, but, on 
the contrary, an advantage, that such examples can but 
rarely occur. For not to mention that that commonwealth 
is ill ordered where examples are daily made of criminals 
(as we showed Chap. V. Sec. 2), those events must surely 
be very rare that are most renowned by fame. 

42. Those who are sent as governors to cities and pro 
vinces ought to be chosen out of the rank of senators, 
because it is the duty of senators to look after the forti 
fications of cities, the treasury, the military, etc. But those, 
who were sent to somewhat distant regions, would be 
unable to attend the senate, and, therefore, those only are 
to be summoned from the senate itself, who are destined 
to cities founded on their native soil ; but those whom they 
wish to send to places more remote are to be chosen out of 
those, whose age is consistent with senatorial rank. But 
not even thus do I think that the peace of the dominion 
will be sufficiently provided for, that is, if the neighbour 
ing cities are altogether denied the right of vote, unless 
they are so weak, that they can be openly set at naught, 
which cannot surely be supposed. And so it is necessary, 
that the neighbouring cities be granted the right of ciii/rn- 
ship, and that from every one of them twenty, or thirty, or 
forty chosen citizens (for the number should vary with the 
size of the city) be enrolled among the patricians, out of 
whom three, four, or five ought to be yearly elected to bo 
of the senate, and one for life to be a syndic And let 

8ECS. 41-44] OF AElStOC&ACY. 867 

those who are of the senate be sent with their syndic, to 
govern the city out of which they were chosen. 

43. Moreover, judges are to be established in every city, 
chosen out of the patricians of that city. But of these I 
think it unnecessary to treat at length, because they con 
cern not the foundations of this sort of dominion in 

44. In every council the secretaries and other officials 
of this "kind, as they have not the right of voting, should 
be chosen from the commons. But as these, by their long 
practice of business, are the most conversant with the 
affairs to be transacted, it often arises that more deference 
than right is shown to their advice, and that the state of 
the whole dominion depends chiefly on their guidance : 
which thing has been fatal to the Dutch. For this cannot 
happen without exciting the jealousy of many of the 
noblest. And surely we cannot doubt, that a senate, whose 
wisdom is derived from the advice, not of senators, but of 
officials, will be most frequented by the sluggish, and the 
condition of this sort of dominion will be little better than 
that of a monarchy directed by a few counsellors of the 
king. (See Chap. VI. Sees. 5-7). However, to this evil 
the dominion will be more or less liable, according as it 
was well or ill founded. For the liberty of a dominion is 
never defended without risk, if it has not firm enough 
foundations ; and, to avoid that risk, patricians choose 
from the commons ambitious ministers, who are slaughtered 
as victims to appease the wrath of those, who are plotting 
against liberty. But where liberty has firm enough foun 
dations, there the patricians themselves vie for the honour 
of defending it, and are anxious that prudence in the con 
duct of affairs should flow from their own advice only ; and 
in laying the foundations of this dominion we have studied 
above afl these two points, namely, to exclude the commons 
from giving advice as much as from giving votes (Sees. 
3, 4), and, therefore, to place the whole authority of the 
dominion with the whole body of patricians, but its exer 
cise with the syndics and senate, and, lastly, the right of 
convoking the senate, and treating of matters affecting the 
common welfare with consuls chosen from the senate itself. 
But, if it is further ordained that the secretary, whether in 


the senate or in other councils, T>e appointed for four or 
five years at most, and have attached to him an assistant- 
secretary appointed for the same period, to Lear part of 
the work during that time, or that the senate have not 
one, "but several secretaries, employed one in one depart 
ment, and another in another, the power of the officials 
will never become of any consequence. 

45. Treasurers are likewise to be chosen from the com 
mons, and are to be bound to submit the treasury accounts 
to the syndics as well as to the senate. 

46. Matters concerning religion we have set forth at 
sufficient length in our Theologico-Politieal Treatise. Yet 
certain points we then omitted, of which it was not there 
the place to treat ; for instance, that all the patricians 
must be of the same religion, that is, of that most simple 
and general religion, which in that treatise we described. 
For it is above all to lie avoided, that the patricians them 
selves should be divided into sects, and show favour, some 
to this, and others to that, and thence become mastered by 
superstition, and try to deprive the subjects of the liberty 
of speaking out their opinions. In the second place, though 
everyone is to be given liberty to speak out his opinion, 
yet great conventicles are to be forbidden. And, therefore, 
those that are attached to another religion are, indeed, to 
be allowed to build as many temples as they please ; yet 
these are to be small, and limited to a certain standard of 
size, and on sites at some little distance one from another. 
But it is very important, that the temples consecrated to 
the national religion should be large and costly, and that 
only patricians or senators should be allowed to ad 
minister its principal rites, and thus that patricians only 
be suffered to baptize, celebrate marriages, and lay on 
hands, and that in general they be recognized as the 
priests of the temples and the champions and interpreters 
of the national religion. But, for preaching, and to 
manage the church treasury and its daily business, let 
some persons be chosen from the commons by the senate 
itself, to be, as it were, the senate s deputies, and, there 
fore, bound to render it account of everything. 

47. And these are points that concern the foundations 
of this sort of dominion ; to which I will add some few 

SECS. 44-49.] OF ARISTOCRACY. 369 

others less essential indeed, but yet of great importance. 
Namely, that the patricians, when they walk, should be 
distinguished by some special garment, or dress, and be 
saluted by some special title ; and that every man of the 
commons should give way to them; and that, if any 
patrician has lost his property by some unavoidable mis- 
fortune, he should be restored to his old condition at the 
public expense ; but if, on the contrary, it be proved that 
he has spent the same in presents, ostentation, gaming, 
debauchery, &c., or that he is insolvent, he must lose his 
dignity, and be held unworthy of every honour and office. 
For he, that cannot govern himself and his own private 
affairs, will much less be able to advise on public affairs. 

48. Those, whom the law compels to take an oath, will 
be much more cautious of perjury, if they are bidden to 
swear by the country s safety and liberty and by the 
supreme council, than if they are told to swear by God. 
Tor he who swears by God, gives as surety some private 
advantage to himself, whereof he is judge ; but he, who by 
his oath gives as surety his country s liberty and safety, 
swears by what is the common advantage of all, whereof 
he is not judge, and if he perjures himself, thereby de 
clares that he is his country s enemy. 

49. Academies, that are founded at the public expense, 
are ^instituted not so much to cultivate men s naturai 
abilities as to restrain them. But in a free commonwealth 
arts and sciences will be best cultivated to the full, if every 
one that asks leave is allowed to teach publicly, and that 
at his own cost and risk. But these and the like points I 
reserve for another place. 1 For here I determined to treat 
only such matters as concern an aristocratic dominion 

1 This promise is not kept by the author, no doubt owing to his not 
living to finish the work. 

B B 




HITHERTO we have considered an aristocracy, so far 
as it takes its name from one city, which is the head 
of the whole dominion. It is now time to treat of that, 
which is in the hands of more than one city, and which I 
tli ink preferable to the former. But that we may notice 
its difference and its superiority, we will pass in review 
the foundations of dominion, one by one, rejecting those 
foundations, which are unsuited to the present kind, and 
laying in their place others for it to rest upon. 

*2. The cities, then, which enjoy the right of citizenship, 
must be so built and fortified, that, on the one hand, each 
city by itself may be unable to subsist without the rest, 
and that yet, on the other hand, it cannot desert the rest 
without great harm to the whole dominion. For thus they 
will always remain united. But cities, which are so con 
stituted, that they can neither maintain themselves, nor be 
dangerous to the rest, are clearly not independent, but 
absolutely subject to the rest. 

3. But the contents of the ninth and tenth sections of 
the last chapter are deduced from the general nature of 
aristocracy, as are also the proportion between the numbers 
of the patricians and the multitude, and the proper age and 
condition of those that are to be made patricians; so that 
on these points no difference can arise, whether the do 
minion be in the hands of one or more cities. But the 
supremo council must here be on a different footing. For 
if any city of the dominion were assigned for the meeting 
of this supreme council, it would in reality be the head of 
the dominion ; and, therefore, either they would have to take 
turns, or a place would have to be assigned for this 
council, that has not the right of citizenship, and belongs 


equally to all. But either alternative is as difficult to 
effect, as it is easy to state ; I mean, either that so many 
thousands of men should have to go often outside thei r 
cities, or that they should have to assemble sometimes in 
one place, sometimes in another. 

4. But that we may conclude aright what should "be 
done in this matter, and on what plan the councils of this 
dominion ought to be formed, from its own very nature 
and condition, these points are to be considered ; namely, 
that every city has so much more right than a private 
man, as it excels him in power (Chap. II. Sec. 4), and 
consequently that every city of this dominion has as much 
right within its walls, or the limits of its jurisdiction, as it 
has power ; and, in the next place, that all the cities are 
mutually associated and united, not as under a treaty, but 
as forming one dominion, yet so that every city has so 
much more right as against *the dominion than the others, 
as it exceeds the others in power. For he who seeks 
equality between unequals, seeks an absurdity. Citizens, 
indeed, are rightly esteemed equal, because the power of 
each, compared with that of the whole dominion, is of no 
account. But each city s power constitutes a large part of 
the power of the dominion itself, and so much the larger, 
as the city itself is greater. And, therefore, the cities can 
not all be held equal. But, as the power of each, so also 
its right should be estimated by its greatness. The bonds, 
however, by which they should be bound into one do 
minion, are above all a senate and a court of justice 
(Chap. IV. Sec. 1). But how by these bonds they are all 
to be so united, that each of them may yet remain, as far 
as possible, independent, I will here briefly show. 

5. I suppose then, that the patricians of every city, who, 
according to its size, should be more, or fewer (Sec. 3), 
have supreme right over their own city, and that, in that 
city s supreme council, they have supreme authority to 
fortify the city and enlarge its walls, to impose taxes, to 
pass and repeal laws, and, in general, to do everything 
which they judge necessary to I heir city s preservation and 
increase. But to manage the common business of the 
dominion, a senate is to be created 011 just the same foot 
ing as we described in the last chapter, so that there le 


"between this senate and the former no difference, except 
that this has also authority to decide the disputes, which 
may arise between cities. For in this dominion, of which 
no city is head, it cannot be done by the supreme council. 
(See Chap. VI. Sec. 38.) 

6. But, in this dominion, the supreme council is not to 
be called together, unless there is need to alter the form of 
the dominion itself, or on some difficult business, to which 
the senators shall think themselves unequal ; and so it will 
very rarely happen, that all the patricians are summoned 
to council. For we have said (Chap. VIII. Sec. 17), that 
the supreme council s function is to pass and repeal laws, 
and to choose the ministers of the dominion. But the laws, 
or general constitution of the whole dominion, ought not to 
be changed as soon as instituted. If, however, time and 
occasion suggest the institution of some new law or the 
change of one already ordained, the question may first be 
discussed in the senate, and after the agreement of the 
senate in the matter, then let envoys next be sent to the 
cities by the senate itself, to inform the patricians of every 
ciiy of the opinion of the senate, and lastly, if the majority 
of the cities follow that opinion, it shall then remain good, 
buV otherwise be of no effect. And this same order may 
be observed in choosing the generals of the army and the 
ambassadors to be sent to other realms, as also about 
decrees concerning the making of war or accepting condi 
tions of peace. But in choosing the other public officials, 
since (as we showed in Sec. -J?) every city, as far as can be, 
ought to remain independent, and to have as much more 
right than the others in the dominion, as it exceeds them 
in power, the following order must necessarily be observed. 
The senators are to be chosen by the patricians of each 
ciiy ; that is, the patricians of one city are to elect in their 
o\vn council a iixed number of senators from their col 
leagues of their own ciiy, which number is to be to that of 
the pairici;ins oL thai ciiy as one to twelve (Chap. A lLT. 
See. ))(Jj ; and they are to designate whom they will to be 
ol the lirst, second, third, or other series; and in like 
manner the patricians of the other cities, in proportion to 
tli -ir number, are lo choose more or fewer senators, and 
distribute them among the series, iuto a certain number of 

SECS. 5-8.] 0# AElSTOCBACf. 373 

which we have said the senate is to be divided. (Chap. 
VIH. Sec. 34.) By which means it will result, that in 
every series of senators there will be found senators of 
every city, more or fewer, according to its size. But the 
presidents and vice-presidents of the series, being fewer 
in number than the cities, are to be chosen by lot by the 
senate out of the consuls, who are to be appointed first. 
The same order is to be maintained in appointing the 
supreme judges of the dominion, namely, that the patricians 
of every city are to elect from their colleagues in propor 
tion to their number more or fewer judges. And so it will 
be the case, that every city in choosing officials will be 
as independent as possible, and that each, in proportion to 
its power, will have the more right alike in the senate and 
the court of justice ; supposing, that is, that the order 
observed by senate and court in deciding public affairs, 
and settling disputes is such in all respects, as we have 
described it in the thirty-third and thirty-fourth sections 
of the last chapter. 1 

7. Next, the commanders of battalions and military tri 
bunes are also to be chosen from the patricians. For as it 
is fair, that every city in proportion to its size should bo 
bound to levy a certain number of soldiers for the general 
safety of the whole dominion, it is also fair, that from the 
patricians of every city in proportion to the number of 
regiments, which they are bound to maintain, they may 
appoint so many tribunes, captains, ensigns, etc., as are 
needed to discipline that part of the military, which they 
supply to the dominion. 

8. No taxes are to be imposed by the senate on the 
subjects ; but to meet the expenditure, which by decree of 
the senate is necessary to carry on public business, not 
the subjects, but the cities themselves are to be called 
to assessment by the senate, so that every city, in propor 
tion to its size, should pay a larger or smaller share of the 
expense. And this share indeed is to be exacted by the 
patricians of every city from their own citizens in what 
way they please, either by compelling them to an assess 
ment, or, as is much fairer, by imposing taxes on them. 

1 So the text : but the court of justice is not described till the thirty- 
seventh and following sections of Chap. VIII. 


9. Further, although all the cities of this dominion are 
not meantime, nor the senators summoned from the mari 
time cities only, yet may the same emoluments he awarded 
to the senators, as we mentioned in the thirty-first section 
of the last chapter. To which end it will be possible to 
devise means, varying with the composition of the do 
minion, to link the cities to one another more closely. 
But the other points concerning the senate and the court 
of justice and the whole dominion in general, which I 
delivered in the last chapter, are to he applied to this 
dominion also. And so we see, that in a dominion which 
is in the hands of several cities, it will not be necessary to 
assign a fixed time or place for assembling the supreme 
council. But for the senate and court of justice a place is 
to be appointed in a village, or in a city, that has not the 
right of voting. But I return to those points, which con 
cern the cities taken by themselves. 

10. The order to be observed by the supreme council of 
a single city, in choosing officials of the dominion and of 
the city, and in making decrees, should be the same that 
I have delivered in the twenty-seventh and thirty-sixth 
sections of the last chapter. For the policy is the same 
here as it was there. Next a council of syndics is to bo 
formed, subordinate to the council of the city, and having 
the same relation to it as the council of syndics of the last 
chapter had to the council of the entire dominion, and let 
its functions within the limits of the city be also the same, 
and let it enjoy the same emoluments. But if a city, and 
consequently the number of its patricians be so small that 
it cannot create more than one syndic or two, which two 
are not enough to make a council, then the supreme council 
of the city is to appoint judges to assist the syndics in trials 
according to the matter at issue, or else the dispute must 
be referred to the supreme council of syndics. For from 
even- city some also out of the syndics are to be sent to 
the place where the senate sits, to see that the constitution 
of the whole dominion is preserved unbroken, and they 
are to sit in the senate without the right of voting. 

11. The consuls of the cities are likewise to be chosen 
by the patricians of their city, and are to constitute a sort 
of senate for it. But their number I cannot determine, 


nor yet do I think it necessary, since the city s business of 
great importance is transacted by its supreme council, and 
matters concerning the whole dominion by the great senate. 
But if they be few, it will be necessary that they give their 
votes in their council openly, and not by ballot, as in large 
councils. For in small councils, when votes are given 
secretly, by a little extra cunning one can easily detect the 
author of every vote, and in many ways deceive the less 

12. Besides, in every city judges are to be appointed by 
its supreme council, from whose sentence, however, let 
everyone but an openly convicted criminal or confessed 
debtor have a right of appeal to the supreme court of justice 
of the dominion. But this need not be pursued further. 

13. It remains, therefore, to speak of the cities which 
are not independent. If these were founded in an actual 
province or district of the dominion, and their inhabitants 
are of the same nation and language, they ought of neces 
sity, like villages, to be esteemed parts of the neighbour 
ing cities, so that each of them should be under the 
government of this or that independent city. And the 
reason of this is, that the patricians are chosen by the 
supreme council, not of the dominion, but of every city, 
and in every city are more or fewer, according to the 
number of inhabitants within the limits of its jurisdiction 
(Sec. 5). And so it is necessary, that the multitude of the 
city, which is not independent, be referred to the census of 
another which is independent, and depend upon the latter s 
government. But cities captured by right of war, and 
annexed to the dominion, are either to be esteemed asso 
ciates in the dominion, and though conquered put under 
an obligation by that benefit, or else colonies to enjoy the 
right of citizenship are to be sent thither, and the natives 
removed elsewhere or utterly destroyed, 

14. And these are the things, which touch the founda 
tions of the dominion. But that its condition is better 
than that of the aristocracy, which is called after one city 
only, I conclude from this, namely, that the patricians of 
every city, after the manner of human desire, will be eager 
to keep, and if possible increase their right, both in their 
city and in the senate ; and therefore will try, as far as 


possible, to attract the multitude to themselves, and con 
sequently to make a stir in the dominion by good deeds 
rather than by fear, and to increase their own number ; be- 
Ccause the more numerous they are, the more senators they 
will choose out of their own council (Sec. 6), and hence the 
more right (Sec. 6) they will possess in the dominion. Nor 
is it an objection, that while every city is consulting its 
own interest and suspecting the rest, they more often 
quarrel among themselves, and waste time in disputing. 
For if, while the Eomans are debating, Saguntum is lostT 1 
on the other hand, while a few are deciding everything in 
conformity with their own passions only, liberty and the 
general good are lost. For men s natural abilities are too 
dull to see through everything at once ; but by consulting, 
listening, and debating, they grow more acute, and while 
they are trying all means, they at last discover those 
wliich they want, which all approve, but no one would 
have thought of in the first instance. But if anyone retorts, 
that the dominion of the Dutch has not long endured 
without a count or one to fill his place, let him have this 
reply, that the Dutch thought, that to maintain their liberty 
it was enough to abandon their count, and to behead the 
body of their dominion, but never thought of remoulding 
it, and left its limbs, just as they had been first consti 
tuted, so that the county of Holland has remained with 
out a count, like a headless body, and the actual dominion 
has lasted on without the name. And so it is no wonder 
that most of its subjects have not known, with whom the 
authority of the dominion lay. And even had this been 
otherwise, yet those who actually held dominion were far 
too few to govern the multitude and suppress their power 
ful adversaries. Whence it has come to pass, that the 
latter have often been able to plot against them with im 
punity, and at last to overthrow them. And so the sudden 
overthrow of the said republic 2 luis not arisen from a 
useless waste of time in debates, but from the misformed 
state of the said dominion and the fewness of its rulers. 

1 Livy, "Hist.," Bk. xxi. Chaps. VI. and following. 
TIT W- 10 , 72 i William Henrv. Prince of Orange, afterwards William 
Lnuland, was made Statholder by a popular insurrection, conse 
quent on the invasion of the French. 

8ECS. 14, 15.] OF ARISTOCRACY, <7 

15. Tliis aristocracy in the hands of several cities is also 
preferable to the other, because it is not necessary, as in 
the first described, to provide against its whole supreme 
council being overpowered by a sudden attack, since (Sec. 
9) no time or place is appointed for its meeting. More 
over, powerful citizens in this dominion are less to be 
feared. For where several cities enjoy liberty, it is not 
enough for him, who is making ready his way to dominion, 
to seize one city, in order to hold dominion over the rest. 
And, lastly, liberty under this dominion is common to more. 
For where one city reigns alone, there the advantage of 
the rest is only so far considered, as suits that reigning 




HAVING explained and made proof of the foundations 
of Loth kinds of aristocracy, it remains to inquire 
"whether by reason of any fault they are liable to be dis 
solved or changed into another form. The primary cause, 
by which dominions of this kind are dissolved, is that, 
which that most acute Florentine l observes in his " Dis 
courses on Livy " (Bk. iii. Chap. I.), namely, that like a 
human body, " a dominion has daily added to it something 
that at some time or other needs to be remedied." And so, 
he says, it is necessary for sov.iething occasionally to occur, 
to bring back the dominion to that first principle, on which 
it was in the beginning established. And if this does not 
take place within the necessary time, its blemishes will go 
on increasing, till they cannot be removed, but with the 
dominion itself. And this restoration, he says, may either 
happen accidentally or by the design and forethought of 
the laws or of a man of extraordinary virtue. And wo 
cannot doubt, that this matter is of the greatest impor 
tance, and that, where provision has not been made against 
this inconvenience, the dominion will not be able to endure 
by its own excellence, but only by good fortune; and on 
the other hand that, where a proper remedy has been 
applied to this evil, it will not be possible for it to fall by 
its own fault, but only by some inevitable fate, as we shall 
presently show more clearly. The first remedy, that sug 
gested itself for this evil, was to appoint every five years a 
supreme dictator for one or two months, who should have 
the right to inquire, decide, and make ordinances concern 
ing the acts of the senators and of every official, and 

1 Muchiavelli. 


thereby to bring back the dominion to its first principle 
-but he who studies to avoid the inconveniences, to which 
a dominion is liable, must apply remedies that suit its 
nature, and can be derived from its own foundations- 
otherwise m his wish to avoid Charybdis he falls upon 
fecylla. It is, indeed, true that all, as well rulers as ruled 
ought to be restrained by fear of punishment or loss so 
that they may not do wrong with impunity or even advan 
tage ; but, on the other hand, it is certain, that if this fear 
becomes common to good and bad men alike, the dominion 
must be in the utmost danger. Now as the authority of 
a dictator is absolute, it cannot fail to be a terror to all 
especially if, as is here required, he were appointed at a 
stated time, because in that case every ambitious man 
would pursue this office with the utmost energy; and it is 
jrtaui that in time of peace virtue is thought less of than 
wealth so that the more haughty a man he is, the more 
easily he will get office. And this perhaps is why the 
Komans used to make a dictator at no fixed time but 
under pressure of some accidental necessity. Though for 
all that, to quote Cicero s words, "the tumour of a dic 
tator was displeasing to the good." And to be sure, as 
this authority of a dictator is quite royal, it is impossible 
tor the dominion to change into a monarchy without great 
peril to the republic, although it happen for ever so short 
a time. Furthermore, if no fixed time were appointed for 
creating a dictator, no notice would be paid to the interval 
between one dictator and another, which is the very thiiio- 
that we said was most to be observed ; and the whole thin" 
would be exceedingly vague, and therefore easily neglected! 
Unless, then, this authority of a dictator be eternal and 
fixed, and therefore impossible to be conferred on one man 
without destroying the form of dominion, the dictatorial 
authority itself, and consequently the safety and preser 
vation of the republic will be very uncertain. 

2. But, on the other hand, we cannot doubt (Chap VI 

Sec. 3), that if without destroying the form of dominion; 

ie sword of the dictator might be permanent, and only 

Cic. ad Quint Grat. iii. 8, 4. The better reading is 

party S d " in 8UCh a P assa e means * he 


terrible to the wicked, evils will never grow to such a pitch, 
that they cannot be eradicated or amended. In order, 
therefore, to secure all these conditions, we have said, that 
there is to be a council of syndics subordinate to the 
supreme council, to the end that the sword of the dictator 
should be permanent in the hands not of any natural 
person, but of a civil person, whose members are too nume 
rous to divide the dominion amongst themselves (Chap. IX. 
Sees. 1, 2), or to combine in any wickedness. To which is 
to be added, that they are forbidden to till any other oflice 
in the dominion, that they are not the paymasters of the 
soldiery, and, lastly, that they are of an age to prefer 
actual security to things new and perilous. Wherefore the 
dominion is in no danger from them, and consequently they 
cannot, and in fact will not be a terror to the good, but 
only to the wicked. For as they are less powerful to ac 
complish criminal designs, so are they more so to restrain 
wickedness. For, not to mention that they can resist it in 
its beginnings (since the council lasts for ever), they are also 
sufficiently numerous to dare to accuse and condemn this 
or that influential man without fear of his enmity ; espe- 
ciallv as they vote by ballot, and the sentence is pronounced 
in the name of the entire council. 

3. But the tribunes of the commons at Koine were like 
wise regularly appointed ; but they were too weak to re 
strain the power of a Scipio, and had besides to submit to 
the senate their plans for the public welfare, 1 which also 
frequently eluded them, by contriving that the one whom 
the senators were least afraid of should be most popular 
with the commons. Besides which, the tribunes authority 
was supported against the patricians by the favour of the 
commons, and whenever they convoked the commons, it 
looked as if they were raising a sedition rather than as 
sembling a council. Which inconveniences have certainly 
no place in the dominion which we have described in the 
last two chapters. 

4. However, this authority of the syndics will only be 

1 Not by law, except before n.c. 287 and in the interval between tho 
dictatorship of Sulla and the consulship of Pompey and Crassus. J5ut 
in the golden age of the republic the senate in fact controlled the 


able to secure tlie preservation of the form of the dominion, 
and thus to prevent the laws from being broken, or anyone 
from gaining by transgressing; but will by no means 
suffice to prevent the growth of vices, which cannot be 
forbidden by law, such as those into which men fall from 
excess of leisure, and from which the ruin of a dominion 
not uncommonly follows. For men in time of peace lay 
aside fear, and gradually from being fierce savages become 
civilized or humane, and from being humane become soft 
and sluggish, and seek to excel one another not in virtue, 
but in ostentation and luxury. And hence they begin to 
put off: their native manners and to put on foreign ones, 
that is, to become slaves. 

5. To avoid these evils many have tried to establish 
sumptuary laws ; but in vain. For all laws which can be 
broken without any injury to another, are counted but a 
laughing-stock, and are so far from bridling the desires 
and lusts of men, that on the contrary they stimulate 
them. For ^ we are ever eager for forbidden fruit, and 
desire what is denied." 1 Nor do idle men ever lack ability 
to elude the laws which are instituted about things, which 
cannot absolutely be forbidden, as banquets, plays, orna 
ments, and the like, of which only the excess is bad ; and 
that is to be judged according to the individual s fortune, 
so that it cannot be determined by any general law. 

6. I conclude, therefore, that the common vices of peace, 
of which we are here speaking, are never to be directly, but 
indirectly forbidden ; that is, by laying such foundations 
of dominion, that the result may befthat the majority, I do 
not say are anxious to live wisely (for that is impossible), 
but are guided by those passions whence the republic has 
most advantage. And therefore the chief point to be 
studied is, that the rich may be, if not thrifty, yet avari 
cious. For there is no doubt, that, if this passion of 
avarice, which is general and lasting, be encouraged by the 
desire^of glory, most people would set their chief affection 
upon increasing their property without disgrace, in order 
to acquire honours, while avoiding extreme infamy. If then 
we examine the foundations of both kinds of aristocracy 

1 Ovid, Amorcs," III. iv. 17. 


which I liave explained in the last two chapters, we shall 
see, that this very result follows from them. For tlio 
number of rulers in both is so large, that most of the rich 
have access to government and to the oflices of the do 
minion open to them. 

7. But if it be further ordained (as we said, Chap. VTII. 
Sec. 47), that patricians who are insolvent be deposed 
from patrician rank, and that those who have lost their 
property by misfortune be restored to their former position, 
there is no doubt that all will try their best to keep their 
property. Moreover, they will never desire foreign cos 
tumes, nor disdain their native ones, if it is by law ap 
pointed, that patricians and candidates for oflice should be 
distinguished by a special robe, concerning which see 
Chap. VIII. Sees. 25, 47. And besides these, other means 
may be devised in every dominion agreeable to the nature 
of its situation and the national genius, and herein it is 
above all to be studied, that the subjects may do their 
duty rather spontaneously than under pressure of the law. 

8. For a dominion, that looks no farther than to lead 
men by fear, will be rather free from vices, than possessed 
of virtue. But men are so to be led, that they may think 
that they arc not led, but living after their own mind, and 
according to their free decision ; and so that they are re 
strained only by love of liberty, desire to increase their 
property, and hope of gaining the honours of the dominion. 
But efligies, triumphs, and other incitements to virtue, 
are signs rather of slavery than liberty. For rewards of 
virtue are granted to slaves, not freemen. I admit, indeed, 
that men are very much stimulated by these incitements; 
but, as in the first instance, they are awarded to great men, 
so afterwards, with the growth of envy, they are granted 
to cowards and men swollen with the extent of their 
wealth, to the great indignation of all good men. Secondly, 
those, who boast of their ancestors eth gies and triumphs, 
think they are wronged, if they are not preferred to others. 
Lastly, not to mention other objections, it is certain that 
equality, which once cast off the general liberty is lost, can 
by no means bo maintained, from tin* time that peculiar 
honours HIV by public law decreed to any man renowned 
fur his virtue. 


9. After which premisses, let us now see whether do 
minions of this kind can be destroyed by any cause to 
which blame attaches. But if any dominion can be ever- 
Jastmg, that will necessarily be so, whose constitution beino- 
once rightly instituted remains unbroken. For the constitu^ 
tion is the soul of a dominion. Therefore, if it is preserved 
so is the dominion. But a constitution cannot remain un- 
conquered, unless it is defended alike by reason and 
common human passion : otherwise, if it relies only on the 
help of reason, it is certainly weak and easily overcome 
Now since the fundamental constitution of both kinds of 
aristocracy has been shown to agree with reason and com- 
nion human passion, we can therefore assert that these if 
any kinds of dominion, will be eternal, in other words, 
that they cannot be destroyed by any cause to which 
blame attaches, but only by some inevitable fate. 

10. But it may still be objected to us, that, although the 
:onstitution of dominion above set forth is defended by 

reason and common human passion, yet for all that it may 
at some time be overpowered. For there is no passion 
that is not sometimes overpowered by a stronger contrary 
one ; for we frequently see the fear of death overpowered 
by the greed for another s property. Men, who are runnino- 
away in panic fear from the enemy, can be stopped by the fear 
)tmng else, but throw themselves into rivers, or rush into 
fare, to escape the enemy s steel. In whatever decree there- 
tore a commonwealth is rightly ordered, and its laws well 
made ; yet in the extreme difficulties of a dominion, when 
all, as sometimes happens, are seized by a sort of panic 
terror all, without regard to the future or the laws, approve 
only that which their actual fear suggests, all turn towards 
the man who is renowned for his victories, and set him free 
from the laws, and (establishing thereby the worst of pre 
cedents) continue him in command, and entrust to his 
ndekty all affairs of state : and this was, in fact, the cause 
ot the destruction of the Roman dominion, But to answer 
this objection, I say, first, that in a rightly constituted 
republic such terror does not arise but from a dun cause 
Anu so such terror and consequent confusion con be attri- 
to no cause avoidable hy human foresight. Li tbe 
aetf place, it is to be observed, that m a republic such as 


we have above described, it is impossible (Chap. VJLLI. Sees. 
9, 25) for this or that man so to distinguish himself by the 
report of his virtue, as to turn towards himself the atten 
tion of all, but he must have many rivals favoured by 
others. And so, although from terror there arise some 
confusion in the republic, yet no one will be able to elude 
the law and declare the election of anyone to an illegal mili 
tary command, without its being immediately disputed by 
other candidates ; and to settle the dispute, it will, in the end, 
be necessary to have recourse to the constitution ordained 
once for all, and approved by all, and to order the affairs 
of the dominion according to the existing laws. I may 
therefore absolutely assert, that as the aristocracy, which is; 
in the hands of one city only, so especially that which is i:i 
the hands of several, is everlasting, or, in other words, can 
be dissolved or changed into another form by no internal 

BECS 1, 2.] OP DEMOCRACY. 385 



1PASS, at length, to the third and perfectly absolute do 
minion, which we call democracy. The difference be 
tween this and aristocracy consists, we have said, chiefly 
in this, that in an aristocracy it depends on the supreme 
council s will and free choice only, that this or that man is 
made a patrician, so that no one has the right to vote or 
fill public offices by inheritance, and that no one can by 
right demand this right, as is the case in the dominion, 
whereof we are now treating. For all, who are born of citizen 
parents, or on the soil of the country, or who have deserved 
well of the republic, or have accomplished any other con 
ditions upon which the law grants to a man right of 
citizenship ; they all, I say, have a right to demand for 
themselves the right to vote in the supreme council and to 
fill public offices, nor can they be refused it, but for crime 
or infamy. 

2. If, then, it is by a law appointed, that the elder men 
only, who have reached a certain year of their age, or the 
first-born only, as soon as their age allows, or those who 
contribute to the republic a certain sum of money, shall 
have the right of voting in the supreme council and manag 
ing the business of the dominion ; then, although on this 
system the result might be, that the supreme council would 
be composed of fewer citizens than that of the aristocracy 
of which we treated above, yet, for all that, dominions 
of this kind should be called democracies, because in them 
the citizens, who are destined to manage affairs of state, 
are not chosen as the best by the supreme council, but are 
destined to it by a law. And although for this reason 
dominions of this kind, that is, where not the best, but 
those who happen by chance to be rich, or who are born 

o o 


eldest, are destined to govern, are thought inferior to an 
aristocracy; yet, if we reflect on the practice or general 
condition of mankind, the result in both cases will come to 
the same thing. For patricians will always think those 
the best, who are rich, or related to themselves in blood, or 
allied by friendship. And, indeed, if such were the nature 
of patricians, that they were free from all passion, and 
guided by mere zeal for the public welfare in choosing their 
patrician colleagues, no dominion could be compared with 
aristocracy. But experience itself teaches us only too well, 
that things pass in quite a contrary manner, above all, in 
oligarchies, where the will of the patricians, from the absence 
of rivals, is most free from the law. For there the patri 
cians intentionally keep away the best men from the council, 
and seek for themselves such colleagues in it, as hang upon 
their words, so that in such a dominion things are in a 
much more unhappy condition, because the choice of patri 
cians depends entirely upon the arbitrary will of a few, 
which is free or unrestrained by any law. But I return to 
my subject. 

3. From what has been said in the last section, it is 
manifest that we can conceive of various kinds of demo 
cracy. But my intention is not to treat of every kind, but 
of that only, " wherein all, without exception, who owe alle 
giance to the laws of the country only, and are further 
independent and of respectable life, have the right of voting 
in the supreme council and of filling the offices of the do 
minion." I say expressly, " who owe allegiance to the 
laws of the country only, to exclude foreigners, who are 
treated as being under another s dominion. I added, 
besides, " who are independent," except in so far as they 
are under allegiance to the laws of the dominion, to exclude 
women and slaves, who are under the authority of men and 
masters, and also children and wards, as long as they are 
under the authority of parents and guardians. I said, 
lastly, " and of respectable life," to exclude, above all, those 
that are infamous from crime, or some disgraceful means 
of livelihood. 

4. But, perhaps, someone will ask, whether women are 
under men s authority by nature or institution? For if it 
has been by mere institution, then we had no reason com- 

8ECS. 2-4.] OP DEMOCRACY. 387 

pp.1 ling us to exclude women from government. But if we 
consult experience itself, we shall find that the origin of it 
is in their weakness. For there has never been a case of 
men and women reigning together, but wherever on the 
earth men are found, there we see that men rule, and 
women are ruled, and that on this plan, both sexes live in 
harmony. But on the other hand, the Amazons, who are 
reported to have held rule of old, did not suffer men to 
stop in their country, but reared only their female children, 
killing the males to whom they gave birth. 1 But if by 
nature women were equal to men, and were equally distin 
guished by force of character and ability, in which human 
power and therefore human right chiefly consist ; surely 
among nations so many and different some would be found, 
where both sexes rule alike, and others, where men are 
ruled by women, and so brought up, that they can make 
less use of their abilities. And since this is nowhere the 
case, one may assert with perfect propriety, that women 
have not by nature equal right with men : but that they 
necessarily give way to men, and that thus it cannot 
happen, that both sexes should rule alike, much less that 
men should be ruled by women. But if we further reflect 
upon human passions, how men, in fact, generally love 
women merely from the passion of lust, and esteem their 
cleverness and wisdom in proportion to the excellence of 
their beauty, and also how very ill-disposed men are to 
suffer the women they love to show any sort of favour to 
others, and other facts of this kind, we shall easily see that 
men and women cannot rule alike without great hurt to 
peace. But of this enough. 

1 Justin, Histories, ii. 4.